“We’re in a position going forward where we don’t talk alone,” says immediate past SHM president Jeff Wiese, MD, FACP, SFHM, associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. “It’s us and our partners talking together. That moves what is currently a loud voice to a stentorian voice. You can imagine where SHM and ACP [American College of Physicians] and the VA [Veterans Administration] and Society of Critical Care Medicine … if they’re all saying the same thing, that’s a very different message than if one organization is saying it alone.”
Adds SHM board member and former SHM Public Policy Committee chairman Eric Siegal, MD, SFHM, a critical-care fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, “We’re absolutely at the table in a way that’s, frankly, almost stunning how fast we have evolved [from] several years ago, when we first went to Washington, D.C., for our first advocacy day, and we had to explain to people that hospitalists were not in the hospitality industry. We punch well above our weight class right now.”
It’s a tall order for any specialty society to push the national healthcare discussion, but Dr. Li sees HM as perfectly perched “to train the trainers.” The field has grown to more than 30,000 hospitalists, well beyond the estimated ceiling of 20,000 hospitalists forecasted in the field’s earliest days. That rapid-fire growth–hospitalists are now present in the vast majority of hospitals that can either afford them or need them–means the field can now evolve past simply swelling numbers to creating better physicians. By encouraging more rank-and-file practitioners to become leaders, the logic goes, the number of groups will increase as practices sprout in those remaining hospitals without HM services: more practices, more hospitalists, more presence in future policy discussions.
To that end, Dr. Wellikson notes that SHM continues to introduce training courses and research repositories. Two recent additions are eQUIPS (Electronic Quality Improvement Programs), a series of QI and patient toolkits aimed at transitional care, glycemic control, and VTE prevention, and SQUINT, SHM’s new QI repository, which allows users to upload research projects to a searchable database that other physicians can then mine for data.
“We’re really only at the very beginning,” Dr. Li says. “All of hospital medicine only started 10, 15 years ago. For some folks, they believe that’s a long time. But this really is the very beginning of this movement.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.