HM groups looking for a new revenue stream would be well served to keep an eye on the explosive growth of palliative care, according to a former SHM president who also runs a palliative service.
Steven Pantilat, MD, FACP, SFHM, director of the Palliative Care Leadership Center at the University of California at San Francisco, says data released this summer by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) show that 63% of hospitals have palliative-care teams, up from 24.5% in 2000. But growth is lagging in both smaller hospitals and hospitals in the South.
"Hospitals that are looking to improve the systems of care, hospitals that are looking to be more cutting-edge, looking to be adopters of new models of care are going to pursue both hospital medicine and palliative care," Dr. Pantilat says. "That is another way that hospitalists can demonstrate added value."
Dr. Pantilat, who helped create SHM's Palliative-Care Task Force, says hospitalists can provide primary palliative care and should be mindful to identify patients who should be referred to palliative teams. Hospitalists interested in learning more about palliative skills can pursue training programs through CAPC or the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
The growth of HM and palliative care have followed similar tracks in the past decade, and the business case for both services is similar, Dr. Pantilat says. Because demand still outweighs supply in both specialties, many institutions looking for palliative expertise would be pleased to have their HM group take that mantle, particularly as hospitalists are now caring for the majority of inpatients that would benefit from those services, he adds.
"Hospitalists are the ones taking care of those people with advanced, serious, and life-threatening illnesses," Dr. Pantilat says. "De facto, they are already doing this work."