“Ignore the healthcare reform bill,” he said in his address. “Ignore all the fuss about it. Focus instead on the underlying values that you each have individually, and that you have collectively, as to why you became docs in the first place.”
The theme of quality and the future continued speaker after speaker, session after session. Meeting faculty used their microphones to expound on how the recently passed healthcare legislation does more to expand access to healthcare than change the current rules governing it. Most talked about the potential role hospitalists can play in the fluid landscape bound to develop in the next few years, with SHM CEO Larry Wellikson, MD, SFHM, going as far as to describe the field as “the rocketship moving upward almost to a limitless future.”
Still, the future only comes once the past has been recognized, and this year’s meeting will be remembered for the first three physicians who were honored as Masters in Hospital Medicine: John Nelson, Robert Wachter, and Winthrop Whitcomb. The latter described the ceremony as a moving experience for himself and his family.
“When John and I first started working on this in October 1996, and we had the first substantive conversation, I had a really strong feeling that this was going to be successful,” Dr. Whitcomb said. “I saw the forces gathering to drive this, but I definitely didn’t have any idea it was going to be this thing. I don’t think any of us did. . . . What we did want was to have a community.”
This year’s meeting continued to draw scores of first-timers looking to experience a bit of that community. Meeting attendance has nearly doubled since the 2008 meeting in San Diego, with a significant percentage of attendees falling into the early-career hospitalist category.
That includes physicians like Matthew Mechtenberg, DO, a hospitalist at Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, Maine. A two-year hospitalist who formerly worked in private practice, he traveled to the meeting as part of his hospital’s focus on performance measures and QI. He was heartened to learn tricks of the trade—billing for encephalopathy instead of “altered mental status” might capture more costs for some patients—but just as importantly, it was comforting to know many of his institution’s problems are universal.
“Some of the issues I have in my hospital are the same as they have in Beth Israel Deaconess,” Dr. Mechtenberg said. “Issues translate whether you’re in a 50-bed hospital or an 800-bed hospital. That’s reassuring.”
And then there was Bihar Dianati, MD, a hospitalist at Belleville Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Ill., who previously couldn’t attend the annual meeting because he worked a Monday-Friday schedule. With his recent switch to “seven-on, seven-off,” he decided to use his week off for professional development.
Dr. Dianati bounced between sessions, finding some “self-promoting” but others “incredibly helpful.” But any professional meeting is only successful if it draws repeat business. So will Dr. Dianati be back next year for HM11 at the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine, Texas?
“Oh, definitely,” Dr. Dianati said. “I already took the registration papers for next year.” HM10
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.