All told, the bar has been set high. And from what I hear, the exam has a strong QI focus—a discipline most residency programs skimp on when designing their curriculums.
SHM recognizes that we will have to ramp up our educational efforts to prepare hospitalists for RFP. We will need to develop QI assessment modules, continue developing and enhancing QI education at our annual meeting, and we’ll need to consider more regional efforts at providing the education hospitalists need to do this QI work in their hospitals.
A Bright Future
So what does this really mean for our field? Quite a bit, actually.
We have long tracked all the elements traditionally required to call HM a specialty, and one by one we have ticked them off: large numbers of physicians in the field, a separate body of knowledge (i.e., core competencies), textbooks, a journal, national meetings, training programs. But the one element that remained unchecked was a separate certification. Cross that one off the list. Granted, training programs remain few and underdeveloped, but I expect that, too, will change and grow over time.
There are additional questions raised by this new certification. One might ask: “Will hospitals or payors require RFP in HM in order to practice or be paid for what we do?” Maybe. I expect this will not happen rapidly, as many hospitalists are likely to wait until they need to recertify before choosing to pursue RFP in HM. But if all of our colleagues start getting certified, or programs hiring hospitalists begin to require this certification (e.g., advertise the fact that all of their physicians are “certified hospitalists”), the floodgates will open.
Questions also arise about what happens now for family practice or pediatrics. Well, I am pleased to say that the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) has announced its intent to collaborate with ABIM to establish a similar pilot program for RFP in HM for family-practice physicians. And the pediatric societies and board-certifying agencies are watching closely to see if they might consider the same approach for pediatric hospitalists. Stay tuned.
ABMS’ recent approval of the RFP pathway is what many have been working tirelessly toward for years. It is a testament to the maturity, breadth, and importance of our field. And it validates what many of us have known for years: Hospitalists have unique skill sets that are vital to the U.S. healthcare system, and, as a result, we have been integrated into the fabric of hospital care delivery in every state.
With the coming redesign of the healthcare system, hospitalists will be counted on to lead and facilitate the work required to deliver high-quality, efficient hospital care across the country. RFP provides both a means to get hospitalists up to speed to do this important work and recognizes those who are ready to go out and lead.
This truly is a watershed moment for HM. TH
Dr. Flanders is president of SHM.