NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—;Amie Dlouhy, RN, BSN, hospitalist program manager with Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids, Mich., couldn’t scribble notes furiously enough during the practice-management pre-course at HM10. Dlouhy was promoted to her new position as an administrator some six weeks before the annual meeting at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in early April.
So the first-time meeting attendee decided she would jot down as many tips as she could. She quickly realized the trip was worth it, as she learned that a departmental dashboard is a relatively simple way to gather key information in one place. She also likes the idea of drawing up a brochure that tells patients what they can expect from their hospitalists—and perhaps vice versa. And what new HM group leader doesn’t want advice on building a schedule that adds individualized wrinkles to the “seven-on, seven-off” structure?
“It is a business and you need to treat it as if it’s a business,” Dlouhy said. “It’s an ongoing process, and you want to make sure you have a concrete foundation.”
The tidbits Dlouhy gleaned from her pre-course were among scores of nuggets discussed during eight of the accredited educational sessions. This year’s pre-courses boosted to a new high of 20 the number of Category 1 credits physicians could earn toward the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Physician Recognition Award. Last year, the total was 15.
Offering more classes—and more varied topics—worked pretty well, as this year’s slate of pre-courses was more popular than ever, according to SHM officials. At HM09 in Chicago, more than 800 attendees participated in six sessions. At HM10, the total attendance was roughly 10% higher.
A main driver of the growth was the addition of two new courses—“Essential Neurology for the Hospitalist” and “Early Career Hospitalist: Skills for Success.” Another was a packed room of hospitalists answering questions—some right, some wrong—and preparing for the new Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (FPHM) via the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC). The learning session pre-course debuted last year, but the new HM pathway to board recertification helped push attendance higher this year.
“The nice thing about the audience-response system is that you can actually see that not everybody is always going straight to the right answer on all of the questions,” said Julius Yang, MD, PhD, a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the MOC course director. “It’s really serving as an important refresher of our medical knowledge base.”
Dr. Yang said the “mini-retreat” environment of an annual convention is the perfect place to focus on granular professional development. “Trying to do these types of MOCs when you’re working to keep current with all of your other duties, you don’t get as much out of it,” Dr. Yang said. “Here, you get it all.”
—Troy Ahlstrom, MD, FHM, Hospitalists of Northwest Michigan, Traverse City
He adds that those physicians who take the time and spend the money to travel for an educational session tend to be very focused on taking advantage of the program, not just showing up to be counted.
“All of these [questions] are very much directed at growing as a hospitalist,” Dr. Yang said. “It’s a different focus than the rest of the meeting. This is about every individual bringing something back to their institution.”
That’s what keeps bringing Troy Ahlstrom, MD, FHM, back. Dr. Ahlstrom, of Hos-pitalists of Northwest Michigan in Traverse City, has been to three annual meetings, and he said he tries to hit a pre-course every time. Last year, it was a session on how to more completely capture costs from billing and coding.
This year: “Comprehensive Critical Care in 2010: An Interactive Course.” The former appealed to him given that every HM group needs to capture as many of its charges as possible, and the latter because his group helps staff the critical-care units of three hospitals.
Several physicians noted that the critical-care pre-course was particularly appealing to attendees, as more hospitalists are handling those duties at their respective institutions. The format was popular, too, and was structured in the same way as the ABIM learning session, with course director David Schul-man, MD, MPH, chief of pulmonary and critical-care medicine at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, leading a room full of hospitalists through a multiple-choice exam.
Dr. Ahlstrom and others noted that aside from the engagement in education that the daylong pre-courses offer, the sessions are set up with take-home guides, reference materials, and earnest pledges for mentoring from speakers and SHM staff.
“Most medical meetings have a scientific focus with a couple of practical aspects,” Dr. Ahlstrom said. “SHM’s meeting is very practical. It presents research, but it’s research you will use in your practice.”
Gerald Johnson, MD, a hospitalist at Texoma Medical Center in Denison, Texas, signed up for the “Best Practices in Managing a Hospital Medicine Program” pre-course during his first visit to an SHM meeting. A hospitalist for about four years, Dr. Johnson decided to take the pre-course at the urging of senior colleagues. He said the most helpful lessons he gleaned were about compensation plans, scheduling, and staffing.
“It’s not one person getting up there and presenting ‘This is how it needs to be done,’ ” Dr. Johnson said. “They present you with several ways. It really gives you something to adapt to your personal environment.”
Dr. Johnson, who gushed about “the gurus” of HM leading his session, also likes the fact that people with both a financial pedigree and a background in clinical work present the information. In fact, several attendees of the best-practices session noted that the attention to both medicine and management helps fill in the gaps between being a clinician and being a businessman.
“You’ve got to do both well,” Dr. Ahlstrom said. “You’ve got to take good care of patients. But in order to take good care of patients, you have to run a good business model, too.” HM10
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.