HM’s Role: Extended Education
Many HM groups have designated policies for educating patients and assuaging their fears. Because some PCPs might feel left out of the loop when hospitalists care for their patients, these strategies go beyond patient education.
One of the first steps is to involve PCPs in meaningful ways in their patients’ hospital care. When a patient is particularly angered by his PCP’s absence, invite the PCP to visit, or call the PCP more often and let the patient know you’re doing so. As proposed by Bob Wachter, MD, professor and chief of the division of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, a former SHM president, and author of the blog “Wachter’s World,” and Steven Pantilat, MD, FHM, professor of clinical medicine in the division of hospital medicine at UCSF, and a former SHM president, “the PCP can endorse the hospitalist model and the individual hospitalist, notice subtle findings that differ from the patient’s baseline, and help clarify patient preferences regarding difficult situations by drawing on their previous relationship with the patient. This visit may also benefit the PCP by providing insights into the patient’s illness, personality, or social support that he or she was unaware of previously.”2,3
Cogent Healthcare uses an outreach program to calm patient fears and connect with PCPs. The Brentwood, Tenn.-based hospitalist company distributes patient education pamphlets to the PCPs with whom they work, and distributes a flier on admission to show patients the photographs and names of their HM team (see “Make Patient Education A Priority,” p. 29).
Hospitalist training in this arena helps prepare physicians for a potentially uncomfortable work environment. “We need to stress in residency training the specific issue of helping make the patient feel comfortable when their own doctor is not seeing them in the hospital,” Dr. Centor says. “Most young hospitalists right out of their residencies have not experienced primary-care practice, and, so far, we don’t know how to get around that.”
Hospitalist groups also should consider broad initiatives to bring hospitalists together with patient representatives and other volunteers who work with patients. If volunteers are ignored in the educational outreach process, it could exacerbate patients’ negative reactions. Teach volunteers what hospitalists are, their benefit to care delivery, and their value in upholding the mission of quality HM. TH
Andrea Sattinger is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.
- Centor RM. A hospitalist inpatient system does not improve patient care outcomes. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(12):1257-1258.
- Lo B. Ethical and policy implications of hospitalist systems. Dis Mon. 2002;48(4):281-290.
- Wachter RM, Pantilat SZ. The “continuity visit” and the hospitalist model of care. Dis Mon. 2002;48(4): 267-272.
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