On the last day of SHM’s Annual Meeting in May, attendees started their morning with an overview of three exciting projects in hospital medicine, with “Best of Research, Innovations and Clinical Vignettes in 2007.”
Boosting Hospitalists’ Research Efforts
Although hospital medicine programs in academic medical centers are growing rapidly, the role of hospitalist-researchers remains underdeveloped, said Scott A. Flanders, MD, clinical assistant professor, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, by way of introducing “Jumpstarting Hospitalist Clinical Research: The Specialist-Hospitalist Allied Research Program (SHARP).”
“The problem is that our clinical roles dominate over research,” he said. “Also, many hospitalists lack formal research training.” Hospitalists may also lack expertise in clinical areas and are less likely than specialists to become involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of complex hospitalized patients. Specialists are also more likely to have access to extramural funding for disease-based clinical research.
For these reasons, Dr. Flanders and his colleagues implemented SHARP. Their purpose was to jumpstart inpatient-based clinical and translational research in academic medical centers by pairing specialists with hospitalists.
SHARP is designed to facilitate pilot projects and preliminary data collection, which can lead to funding. Ultimately, they hope to disseminate research activities to other institutions.
The SHARP infrastructure partners an academic hospitalist as principle investigator (PI) with an academic cardiologist serving as co-PI. The team also includes a hospitalist investigator, a research associate, a clinical epidemiologist, and other personnel as needed.
SHARP is overseen by the PI and co-PI along with an executive from the University of Michigan Health System, vice chair of the Department of Medicine, and the associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research. This oversight group meets semi-annually and facilitates project selection and program development. It also monitors all program metrics.
“Every SHARP project developed is expected to apply for extramural support,” explained Dr. Flanders. SHARP projects and personnel are funded through these sources for pilot data and utilize revenue from the hospital medicine program.
To date, SHARP has resulted in a number of Internal Review Board-approved projects; a number of grants have been submitted, and some have been funded. In addition, peer-reviewed manuscripts have been submitted and accepted.
“Clinical research is underdeveloped at most academic hospitalist programs,” pronounced Dr. Flanders. “Partnering hospitalists with specialists can facilitate collaborative research and, in turn, identify the best way to care for inpatients. I encourage everyone to borrow this idea for their own institution.”
—Scott A. Flanders, MD, clinical associate professor, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor
How Do Hospitalists Stack up?
In the short time hospitalists have been around, research has consistently shown that their addition has a positive or neutral effect on factors including length and cost of stay, patient mortality, and readmission rates. However, studies have been limited in scope—something Peter K. Lindenauer, MD, MSc, and his colleagues at Baystate Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Springfield, Mass., sought to correct in their own study, “Outcomes of Patients Treated by Hospitalists, General Internists and Family Physicians.”
The hospitalist-researchers wanted to compare outcomes for patients treated by three groups across a range of practice settings: hospitalists, non-hospitalist general internists, and family physicians.
The project they undertook was a retrospective cohort study that included patients admitted to 45 U.S. hospitals between September 2002 and July 2005. Patients were all at least 18 years old and had any of seven diagnoses: pneumonia, heart failure, chest pain, ischemic stroke, urinary tract infection, acute exacerbation of COPD, or acute myocardial infarction.