With the growth of HM has come a major change in the way healthcare is delivered in hospitals across the country: Hospitalists have become one of the major providers of care for hospitalized medical patients. Recent reports suggest that hospitalists care for more than 50% of Medicare patients admitted with a medical diagnosis. In addition to that staggering figure, hospitalists increasingly have assumed care for many surgical patients, have staffed observation units, created procedure services, assumed care of many subspecialty services, and have taken the lead on hospital-based IT and quality-improvement (QI) endeavors, among other key services.
It is hard to argue against the assertion that HM’s emergence over the past decade and a half is one of the most significant game-changers in all of healthcare. Despite this important impact on the structure of care delivery, HM to date has fallen short of the contributions made by many other disciplines over the years in one key area: the generation of new knowledge through research.
New Specialties’ Research Focus
Think for a minute of the contributions of the next two youngest specialties—critical-care medicine and emergency medicine. Both fields have transformed care delivery, as did HM, but in contrast, both critical-care and emergency medicine have well-established investigators and an impressive research agenda. They have had a major impact on the care of patients everywhere.
For example, the critical-care community developed new treatment paradigms for sepsis that grew out of basic science work exploring the roles of cytokines and the inflammatory cascade in infection. Its clinical-research networks have developed and tested new ventilator- and fluid-management strategies for acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Similarly, the emergency medicine community has developed new algorithms for the treatment of cardiac arrest, trauma, and many other common emergency diagnoses that are now implemented in EDs all over the country.
We, the HM community, should aspire to do the same.
By saying we need to do more, I do not mean to undermine the many important contributions we are making. Just pick up any issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine, and you will find a wealth of literature describing the important work of hospitalists everywhere. But to have a lasting impact, we need to continue to expand on this work to advance the national health research agenda by having hospitalists pursue clinical and comparative-effectiveness research, quality and safety research, health system innovations work, and even basic science research.
SHM has always prided itself in being at the forefront of training and networking opportunities for hospitalists. It should come as no surprise that SHM continues to lead in the creation of opportunities designed to enhance HM research.
To advance the research agenda, we need to advance researchers. HM researchers struggle to find funding for their work in a federal infrastructure that emphasizes disease- and organ-based investigation. A hospitalist investigator often explores areas that cross disease boundaries, or pursues work that falls into the realm of “quality and safety,” which tends to have fewer funding opportunities. Hospitalist investigators need a hand getting started, and SHM is going to lend that hand.
At HM10 this month in Washington, D.C., we will announce the recipients of the newly created SHM Junior Faculty Development Award. The award will provide two recipients with $25,000 per year for two consecutive years. This award is a mentored research award, which means it is intended to support junior hospitalist faculty as they apply for a research career development award. The goal in creating this award is to fulfill SHM’s mission of promoting excellence in the practice of HM through research, and to build a generation of effective hospitalist researchers who can define and explore questions pertinent to the general medical care of hospitalized patients.
We hope these awards, through funding and mentoring, boost successful hospitalist investigators, grow the number of hospitalist-initiated research projects, and show academic institutions that hospitalist research ideas have merit. It also is likely that, over time, the awards will create a network of SHM-funded investigators whose collaboration and interaction will further accelerate HM research.
Our hope is that this effort benefits not just the investigators receiving the money, but also all practicing hospitalists and their patients by further clarifying the best methods to care for hospitalized patients, by creating new treatment paradigms, and advancing the science of HM for the benefit of all.
Please join me in congratulating the recipients of this important and prestigious award. TH
Dr. Flanders is president of SHM.