Medicolegal Issues

Network of Knowledge


By now almost everyone has heard about the social network site MySpace. More than 50 million people—mostly between ages 14 and 24—post and view online profiles connected by links to friends in the system. It’s one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet.

MySpace is remarkable not only for consistent, double-digit growth rate, but also because visitors average two hours on the site modifying their profiles, and checking out friends’ profiles and commenting on them. MySpace has become ubiquitous to a generation using this public space to create and modify their identity on a daily basis—with technology that only recently has become available.

While recognizing that it may be a long time before becomes a household destination, the SHM Research Committee aims to generate similar excitement among our peers for connecting with each other over hospital medicine research on the Web.

Chapter Summary

Las Vegas

The SHM Las Vegas Chapter held its quarterly administrative meeting June 26 at Roy’s in Las Vegas. Gary Skankey, MD, infectious disease specialist and associate clinical professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, presented “Treating Complicated Skin and Skin Infections in an Era of Increasing Resistance.” The chapter will host a CME Program on surviving sepsis Sept. 28-29. Visit the chapter page for further program details.


The SHM Nashville Chapter meeting June 6 at Stoney River restaurant was sponsored by Ortho McNeil and HCA Physician Recruitment. Eric Siegal, MD, with the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, was the featured presenter and led an interactive session during “Malpractice for the Hospitalists: Identifying and Mitigating Risks.” The next meeting is scheduled for this month. Details will be posted at a later date.

At the SHM Research Committee meeting in Dallas in May, the conversation covered many topics, including the need for research mentorship, training, and career development. Plans for short- and medium-term measures to support SHM members in these areas are in the works, with a focus on Internet-based resources.

Over the long term, the committee would like to see its efforts result in national, high-impact hospital medicine studies and well-trained researchers. Whether driven by a curiosity in a particular area and/or the desire to provide better care by incorporating the best research, the universal challenge is to free enough time to pursue the answers and for appropriate recognition systems to be in place—be they promotion, funding to support further work, or recognition that leads to new connections.

The 249 abstracts published in a supplement to the Journal of Hospital Medicine only hinted at the depth and enthusiasm behind SHM members’ work. Anyone who walked through the exhibit hall during the poster session at the SHM Annual Meeting and talked with the people behind the research was impressed with their dedication and relative youth. They are the future of hospital medicine and are looking for ways to collaborate and continue to learn. The SHM Research Committee is dedicated to finding ways to support their efforts.

It seems as if many SHM members either engage in research, think about a research project, or wish they could evaluate their everyday practice in a way that can help others. However, it is difficult to discern how best to support individual hospitalists working in diverse settings across the country.

Because clinical responsibilities will not slow down anytime soon, we will have to work within the current, hectic environment and use technology as an equalizer to enable communication. In the spectrum of professional medical societies, SHM could be considered similar to the age 14-24 demographic attracted to the fluidity, instant communication/information and innovation that fuels MySpace.

Our long-term research goals could be powerfully advanced by a peer-catalyzed hospitalist research network.

The term “research network” can refer to many types of collaboration. One type that has been successful is the collection, analysis, and reporting of data in a registry or repository. In this example, medical care can be measured through the collection, analysis, and reporting of data. The National Cardiovascular Data Registry (established in 1998 by the American College of Cardiology Foundation) is a well-known example, but there are many others that have been organized for the purposes of improving quality and providing educational and research activities.

A second type of research network is the developing partnership between the American Medical Association (AMA) and Sermo, an online community where physicians exchange medical opinions. The partnership attempts to use technology to harness innovation, support physicians, and improve the capability of a peer network to influence the care patients receive by letting them share information with each other regarding patient care, pertinent scientific research, and advocacy issues. This is a looser network—without the constraints of data dictionaries—that relies on technology to make the connection between physician peers. While its start-up costs may be lower, its impact will be more difficult to measure.

A third example is the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research, which requires investigators to qualify by logging onto a Web site (, posting a short proposal, and answering questions. If accepted by the expert panel of cancer researchers into this active forum, the new member will not only be eligible to receive the annual prize for the best idea, these individuals and their ideas will be matched to funding agencies and other scientists who may be able to support, assist, and/or collaborate. This limited-access network requires more facilitation than the previous AMA example, and the incentives and outcomes are more clearly defined.

The SHM Research Committee sees potential in exploring a network for hospital medicine researchers, through which members can access resources, collaborate, and innovate. Internet technology has the potential to level the playing field and erase the barriers of time differences and geography. By organizing around areas of interest designed to attract a critical mass of interested hospitalists, the goal of this network is to position SHM to lead hospital medicine research and ensure long-term success and sustainability by enabling powerful, high-impact studies in hospital medicine and supporting well-trained hospitalist researchers. Although this discussion is in the early stages of development, the SHM Research Committee plans to consider the following questions:

Hospital Medicine Fast Facts click for large version

click for large version

How would a network help hospital medicine and hospitalists? During the meeting in May in Dallas, the SHM Research Committee articulated the need for research mentorship, training, and career development. Any proposed network must further these aims. Hospital medicine investigators and SHM members would be involved in refining these goals at the earliest stages. Opportunities for training a new generation of hospital medicine investigators and strengthening the existing ones through such a network will be explored, including options for training in outcomes research and opportunities to link participants with mentors.

 What questions should a network focus on? Hospitalists are well positioned to lead or collaborate on a range of key questions—questions that, in the short term, likely will focus on effectiveness and implementation research (related to quality improvement). Over the longer term, hospitalists should position themselves to be involved in all facets of clinical translational research, including T1 (bench-to-bedside research) and T2 (effectiveness research, such as larger randomized studies, and health services research). As hospital medicine grows, the potential areas where hospitalists might focus their scientific interests will expand. As hospitalists assume greater roles in caring for patients outside general medicine (e.g., surgical, cardiovascular, neurology, and oncology patients), the breadth of scientific inquiry will expand. In many of these cases, research networks exist; SHM will have to facilitate collaboration whenever possible.

How will the network engage a broad swath of hospitalists? By selecting research questions important to public health and anticipating a changing clinical environment, we hope to enhance the interest and relevance of an SHM research network. The SHM Research Committee will focus on how best to design a research network that is practical and useful for hospital medicine researchers and enable straightforward studies. A main goal will be promoting visibility for investigators and coordinators through opportunities for authorship and presentation of results at national meetings.

Healthcare reform has become a hot political issue again—more than a year before the presidential election. All three leading Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards) have proposed some sort of a central institute to assess treatment options and disseminate research and information to providers. Hospitalists (as generalists and team leaders in an arena where approximately 30% of the healthcare dollar is spent) are a key part of any national solution.

Whether this research requires a catalyst such as a hospitalist network—and what that network would look like—remains to be seen. The SHM Research Committee is considering mechanisms to provide research mentorship, training, and career development, and weighing the best use of resources. We count on your input. Contact Carolyn Brennan, director of research program development for SHM, at for more information or to get involved. TH

SHM Behind the Scenes

PRIS updates in Salt Lake City

By Todd Von Deak

Each year, one of the premier events in pediatric hospital medicine is a summer conference presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Ambulatory Pediatric Association (APA), and SHM. This year’s conference, held last month in Salt Lake City under the lead sponsorship of the AAP, was no exception.

Leaders from the AAP, the APA, and SHM opened the morning sessions with brief presentations that highlighted the role of pediatric hospitalists.

More than 300 pediatric hospitalists, medical directors, residents, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants came together for four days to network, get answers, and learn from colleagues at 30 sessions. Charlie Homer, CEO of the National Institute for Children’s HealthCare Quality in Cambridge, Mass., was the keynote speaker. Dr. Homer highlighted the roles hospitalists can and must play to improve children’s health, and challenged all present to create a dashboard that includes quality indicators for care that is efficient, equitable, evidence-based, safe, and family-centered.

Leaders from the AAP, APA, and SHM opened the morning sessions the next day with brief presentations that highlighted the role of pediatric hospitalists in each organization, and the potential to work together to continue to develop pediatric hospital medicine and advance the care of hospitalized children. Participants were then free to choose from more than 16 sessions ranging from clinical issues such as the management of apparent life-threatening events and appropriate maintenance IV fluids, to practice management (Coding 101 and 201), quality improvement, and resident teaching and research.

Capping the schedule of events was a luncheon presentation from Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, director of the Pediatric Research in Inpatient Settings network. He presented “PRIS Update: The Need for Collaborative Hospitalist Research in 2007.” PRIS is an independent collaborative entity established by the same organizations that sponsor the Salt Lake City conference and is designed to allow for collaborative study of key questions in inpatient pediatrics.

Linda Snelling, MD, inpatient director and chief of pediatric critical care at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., followed with a talk on how pediatric hospitalists can effectively negotiate for themselves and the field. Her key insights included, “ ‘No.’ is a complete sentence.”

According to Jack Percelay, MD, past chair of SHM’s Pediatric Committee and a practicing pediatric hospitalist in New York and New Jersey, the conference exceeded its goals. “The energy at the conference was tremendous,” he said. “Sessions were filled with attendees learning of and debating cutting-edge issues for pediatric hospitalists. The buzz in the hotel was so intoxicating we were worried that we were violating Salt Lake City liquor laws. The AAP put on a spectacular meeting. SHM is looking forward to following this tradition of excellence as we take the lead for putting on an even larger meeting in Denver July 24-27, 2008.”

Given that the 2008 meeting sold out six weeks in advance, pediatric hospitalists will do well to stay tuned to The Hospitalist and visit SHM’s Web site,, for more details as the 2008 conference approaches. TH

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