The Annals editors concluded that the letters they received in response to the first article “reflect a schism that exists in internal medicine about the positive and negative effects of hospitalist care,” noting that “the evidence is still deficient about how to deliver care optimally when complex, seriously-ill patients must transition between multiple providers in diverse health care settings.” The authors go on to call for “intensive research and productive debates” about the HM model of care.
A Challenge to You
“Disjointed and isolating”? … “Detrimental and demoralizing”? … Lauding 80% PCP contact rates? … “Intensive research and debate”?
I get that this is a complex issue and that healthcare in the U.S. is fragmented to the point of fracture. To wit, it can be agonizingly time-consuming to track down PCPs and wade through their automated phone systems. And this assumes that your patient has a PCP, can identify that PCP, and has their phone number. If they don’t, you’re left to sift through online phone books, clinic websites, or Google searches with the hopes that you can summon the right Dr. Davis, Davies, or Daves—the patient’s not quite sure of the spelling but knows “she’s a nice lady doctor.” I know firsthand the tension between taking the time to make that PCP call and getting home in time for dinner with my family—I’m often guilty of choosing dinner.
However, I’m not sure “intensive research” is the answer. Nor is this a problem that can wait for technological solutions. I don’t want to diminish the great strides that have been made or understate the need to continue to innovate around transitions—this needs to be an area of ongoing study. But this is a problem that has at least one relatively simple, short-term solution: Just pick up the phone. As one Annals writer rightly questions: “How has inter-physician communication come to be regarded as an unexpected courtesy rather than an obligation?”
So, I have a simple challenge for you: For one week, join me in committing to calling 100% of the available PCPs on patient discharge. I can guarantee you this will prove to be a hard, time-consuming, and, at times, migraine-inducing process. But it is an intervention that will make a difference, can be launched tomorrow, and does not require “intensive research and debate.”
We’ll no doubt gain some insight into our patients’ current therapeutic regimens, enlist PCPs’ help with the treatment decisions, and ensure that our patients’ transitions are as safe as possible. My guess is that we’ll also find it valuable to the point it becomes habit.
Start by committing with me to just one week.
Then go home and have dinner. TH
Dr. Glasheen is associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver, where he serves as director of the Hospital Medicine Program and the Hospitalist Training Program, and as associate program director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program.
- Frustrations with hospitalist care: need to improve transitions and communication. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(7):469.
- Beckman H. Three degrees of separation. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(12):890-891.
- The relationship between hospitalists and primary care physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(7):474-6.