What are the reasons each specialty is turning to this model, and what is its prevalence? Hospitalists have appeared in a specialty largely to fill the void left by the traditionalists who no longer want to care for unattached patients admitted through the ED, or who want to leave the hospital altogether for a solely outpatient practice.
What are typical staffing models, night coverage arrangements, and provider career sustainability? These vary a lot by specialty, but laborists typically work 24-hour, in-house shifts. Surgical hospitalists usually work 12-hour shifts if they are in-house all the time, or 24-hour shifts if they take call from home. Neurohospitalists essentially always take call from home (did you even have to ask?).
Career longevity is still a matter of speculation, but the majority of those who have transitioned from traditional to hospitalist practice in their field are convinced they will have a longer career than if they hadn’t made the switch.
What are the effects of this practice model on clinical quality, patient outcomes, healthcare economics, and liability? It will be really difficult to get convincing research data on the quality effects of the hospitalist model in many fields. After more than 15 years in operation, research about the quality effects of the medical hospitalist model is not robust enough to satisfy some. But OB hospitalists may be the exception here. There is hope that their continuous, on-site presence will reduce complications from emergencies, and in doing so might reduce malpractice risk.
What is the prevalent financial model? The experience across a lot of healthcare settings to this point is that professional fee revenue alone usually is not enough to support a hospitalist practice model in any specialty. Just like medical and pediatric hospitalist models, the hospital in which the doctors practice usually provides additional financial support.
Hospitals usually are willing to do this because they are able to reallocate dollars spent paying for numerous specialty doctors to take ED call with poor performance, and instead use those dollars to support a hospitalist practice in that specialty that promises a better return on the investment.
Join us in November for a meeting to understand the implications of hospital-focused practice. Those of us at the January meeting of specialty hospitalists thought that it would be valuable to convene a much larger meeting to think about issues like those above and others. At the Nov. 4 meeting in Las Vegas, we plan to hear from such national figures as CMS’ chief medical officer, physicians practicing in a hospitalist model, and hospital and healthcare executives. The meeting will be structured to promote interaction and communication from attendees.
I hope to see you in Las Vegas. We have a lot to learn from one another.
Dr. Nelson has been a practicing hospitalist since 1988 and is cofounder and past president of SHM. He is a principal in Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants, a national hospitalist practice management consulting firm (www.nelsonflores.com). He is course codirector and faculty for SHM’s “Best Practices in Managing a Hospital Medicine Program” course. This column represents his views and is not intended to reflect an official position of SHM.