HM’s evolution the past 15 years has helped to reshape patient care in the hospital. Hospitalists near and far, young and old, are most proud of their work.
But how do others view hospitalists? What do nurses, pharmacists, and surgical specialists—professionals who work with hospitalists on a daily basis—say about hospitalists and their daily contributions to medicine and the U.S. healthcare system?
The Hospitalist talked with an array of medical professionals to develop a 360-degree sense of how HM is regarded in the medical community, speaking with sources affiliated with organizations as those sources are inclined to have a more panoramic understanding of how their field views hospitalists. The views presented are those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the stances of their organizations.
Stan Kent, president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, says he always thought that the idea of having doctors who worked exclusively in the hospital would be good idea—even before there was such a thing as a hospitalist.
“I witnessed the movement of internists and surgeons transformed from being hospital-based to more office-based,” says Kent, who also is an assistant vice president at Northshore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., where he oversees pharmacy services. “I always wished that there could be more consistency on the part of those physicians in taking care of the patients in the hospital.”
Once hospitalists became a fixture in hospitals, their familiarity with the hospital and knowledge helped pharmacists do their jobs better, according to Kent. With hospitals becoming more and more complex, with electronic medical records and the handling of cases that are more and more difficult, doctors generally are less efficient if they’re not intimately involved in the system.
Kristi Killelea, an inpatient pharmacist at Northshore, says that it’s easier to develop working relationships with hospitalists whom you frequently see in the hospital.
“From the inpatient perspective, I think the nice part about hospitalists is they are more familiar with inpatient medicine, which typically involves more intravenous-type medications,” she says. “It just makes it easier to deal with them because they see that a little bit more frequently.”
There are times when the gap between inpatient care and outpatient care shows, she notes, but that is uncommon. “Sometimes, if you’re looking for historical knowledge about the patient, about why they are doing what they’re doing with the medication, [hospitalists] can’t always contribute that because they’re not following the patient in their office,” she says. “But I think that’s more rare than the norm.”
Even as medication reconciliation continues to be an issue throughout the healthcare landscape, Kent and Killelea agree it’s not due to hospitalists. “Sometimes patients tell their PCP that they’re taking Lipitor, for example, but they don’t give them the strength and they don’t tell them how many times they’re taking it. Those instances become more cumbersome from a medication reconciliation standpoint,” Kent says. “Whereas if this information is gathered by the hospitalist, they are more accurate and complete, I think, in getting that history, and then doing the reconciliation.”
To date, there is no definitive data to show what effect hospitalists have on the quality of care at hospitals, says Robert Wise, MD, medical advisor to the Joint Commission’s Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation in Washington, D.C.
He says a hospitalist can’t be judged on his or her own but has to be seen in the context of the system in which he or she is working. Hospitalists have in-depth knowledge of the complex processes and technology special to hospital care, but their work is only part of the entire “episode of care” for a patient.