SPEAKERS: Jason Stein, MD, SFHM, associate vice chair for quality, Department of Medicine, Bryce Gartland, MD, FHM, associate director, section of hospital medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta
In an age of increasing technology, just getting technology into a hospital isn’t the answer. It’s about integrating it into practice to improve care.
At Emory, the marriage of “low-tech solutions” and patented data displays has resulted in what Drs. Stein and Gartland call an accountable-care unit (ACU). The unit-based team features geographic ownership and structured interdisciplinary bedside rounds (SIBR). Perhaps more important, the unit generates real-time data captured on monitors, allowing teams of hospitalists, nonphysician providers (NPPs), residents, interns, and social workers to “visually digest immense amounts of information in a very short time period,” Dr. Gartland said.
Dr. Stein defined an ACU as a bounded geographic inpatient area responsible for the clinical, service, and cost outcomes it produces. To help manage beds, Emory instituted a system called “e-Bed,” a McKesson system that tracks room availability. The system shows whether rooms are occupied, being cleaned, or somewhere in between. It has icons to show whether patients are elsewhere in the hospital for treatment, as well as clinical data capacities. Unit teams round together and use a portable workstation or tablet computer to input clinical data, notes, or other comments into real-time dashboards that can then show everything from VTE prophylaxis to whether a patient is at high risk for falls.
The project has been in the works for several years, and Dr. Garltand noted that any hospitalists looking to push similar initiatives at their institution need to ensure that they have buy-in from providers and a commitment to seeing the project through.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “If we tried to force this … a few years ago, it would not have worked.”
SPEAKERS: Patrick Kneeland, MD, hospitalist, Providence Regional Medical Center, Everett, Wash.; Christine Kneeland, COO, Center Partners, Fort Collins, Colo.; Niraj Sehgal, associate professor of medicine, associate chair for quality and safety, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco
Lincoln Godfrey, DO, a hospitalist at Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Ark., was sitting and listening to strategies to lure and keep hospitalists when his hospital CEO sent him a text asking how his recruiting efforts were going with a would-be hire.
“I said I’d get back to him,” Dr. Godfrey jokes.
The C-suite’s passion is understandable, though, as the fight to hire experienced staff outside of major markets continues to stymie many HM groups. Dr. Godfrey says he can’t hire anybody without first getting them to the Ozark Mountains to learn the hospital, its people, and its community.
“There’s going to be a limited talent pool of people who will come at all,” he says. “But I don’t get anybody who doesn’t work with us for a bit first.”
Christine Kneeland—Dr. Kneeland’s mother—said HM leaders tasked with their group’s personnel duties should focus on a few main concepts:
- Think outside the bank. Some physicians look only to earn as much as they can as quickly as they can, but many seek personal and professional satisfaction.
- Engagement is instrumental. A one-day orientation program for a lifetime job doesn’t sound like enough, does it?
In the coming years, hiring managers will have to focus on “millennials”—the generation of doctors born between 1977 and 1999—which Christine Kneeland described as tech-savvy doctors interested in a blended lifestyle of work and leisure. And while some might not agree with or understand their perspective, they’d better get used to it, she said. “The millennials are here, the workplace has changed, and they are leading that change,” she added. “Just embrace it.”
MODERATORS: Win Whitcomb, MD, MHM, medical director of healthcare quality, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass.; Steven Deitelzweig, MD, MMM, SFHM, system chairman, Department of Hospital Medicine, regional vice president of medical affairs, Ochsner Health System, New Orleans
Patient satisfaction scores are a big deal right now, as many HM groups tie the scores to compensation and the federal government tethers the scores and a portion of hospital payment through the value-based purchasing (VBP) program.
So how does a hospitalist improve their HCAHPS score? Here’s what the experts said:
- Personalize things. Give a business card with a picture. Sit down. Smile. Ask the patient if they understand what you’ve said, and don’t get frustrated if they don’t.
- First and last. Make good impressions when introducing yourself to the patient and when it’s time to discharge or transition them to a different facility. “When the hospitalist hands a patient off,” Dr. Whitcomb said, “it doesn’t cut it to pull out your brochure of 40 practitioners when the patient asks, ‘Who am I going to see tomorrow?’”
- Be professional. Don’t vent about workplace issues in front of patients. Dr. Deitelzweig illustrated the point with the case of an elderly patient who got out of bed to help a practitioner they heard complaining about a heavy workload. The patient fell.
- Creative use of white space. Consider using in-room white boards to help keep patients informed of a day’s care plan.
David Jaworski, MD, director of the hospitalist service at Windham Hospital in Willimantic, Conn., says honesty was a key piece of advice he gleaned from the session.
“I think one of the things people appreciate the most when they’re in the hospital is being honest about our uncertainties,” he says. “I have had more people thank me for saying, ‘I don’t know, but we will find out by doing this, this, and this.’ ”
SPEAKER: Jeff Wiese, MD, FACP, SFHM, associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans
The new Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) work-hour rules that take effect July 1 have received a lot of attention since they were announced last summer. The guideline that has attracted the bulk of the attention limits intern shifts to 16 hours, with upper-level residents capped at 24 consecutive hours, with four hours of administrative follow-on allowed with the caveat that strategic napping is “strongly suggested.”
“I’m all for work hours,” said Dr. Wiese, immediate past president of SHM. “It’s the right thing to do; it’s safer. But I think we have to be careful we don’t super-fragment the system or double the intensity of the system. And on both of those plates, if you don’t do it right, what you end up with is people who will be ill-prepared.”
Dr. Wiese said an easy way to question the validity of one ACGME rule is to examine the guideline that limits a first-year resident’s census to 10 patients. He wondered which scenario offers more teaching opportunities: a roster of six chest-pain cases, two pneumonia cases, and two similarly familiar or relatively safe cases, or a resident with only four cases but each one having multiple comorbidities and complex decisions?
The new rules provide hospitals and HM groups an opportunity to change their way of thinking, adds Jeffrey Schnipper, MD, MPH, FHM, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Every program has to change its entire way of doing business anyway, so let’s be at the table and say, ‘Well, while you’re redesigning your entire program, let’s inject patent safety and quality of care, and good pedagogy into the system,’” he says.
MODERATOR: Paul Aronowitz, MD, FACP, internal medicine residency program director, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
A patient comes into the ED with a blistering skin condition, but the diagnosis escapes the triage doctor on the case. The problem turns out to be bullosis diabeticorum, but the ED doc doesn’t know that yet and pushes to add a patient to the upstairs HM roster.
“The ED will usually try to admit because they’re worried [the patient has] some terrible drug eruption, but they can actually go home,” Dr. Aronowitz explained. “Hospitalists can help tell the difference.”
HM groups shouldn’t work to become amateur dermatologists, Dr. Aronowitz added. However, given that many hospitalists find themselves confronted by dermatologic cases several times a month, a rudimentary pedigree is a good idea to help sift out which cases require admission and which would take up bed space required for others.
He referred to it as knowing enough to know whether you know enough. “For sure, a hospitalist can diagnose a hypersensitivity reaction from a classic drug like Dilantin,” Dr. Aronowitz said, “and then stop the drug, because that would be one of the best things they could do.”
The session exposed hospitalists to dozens of images of skin conditions theymight come across in daily rounds, from snakebites to drug reactions to argyria.
“The idea is to help hospitalists recognize what’s serious and what’s not,” he said. “If you recognize those initial cutaneous clues, you can guide your antibiotic therapy, or whether you need antibiotics.”
Speaker: Susan Block, chair, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston
Every physician will have their “button pushed” by a patient now and then, and hospitalists are in the unfortunate position of having little or no previous relationship with most patients, according to Dr. Block, a national expert in physician-patient conflict resolution who said “interpersonal challenges are an onerous part” of the job.
“We want to make sure we provide really good care to these patients, but it can be very challenging,” she said, noting that between 10% and 30% of patients in the healthcare setting present with difficult behaviors.
Whether it’s an empowered patient, a traumatized patient, an intrusive family member, or a patient with clear psychosocial issues, Dr. Block explained that “these patients can make physicians feel lousy. … Being aware of that and trying to stop that process is one of the key issues in professionalism and competence in working with difficult patients.”
She also warned hospitalists to recognize when they become a “magnet” for difficult patients, as many times the expert in the group will become the “go-to” doc. “I don’t think anyone can take care of a large panel of these patients; it’s just too much,” she said, noting you have to negotiate some limits or you will “burn out and lose perspective.”
Many doctors are very uncomfortable with scared or crying patients, Dr. Block said, explaining these are some of her most difficult patients. “Show me a patient in the hospital who isn’t scared,” she said. “Even it they aren’t, they are scared of dying.”
Other sources of workplace discomfort include the dependent or “needy” patient, the suspicious patient, and the extremely pushy patient. Dr. Block suggested setting clear boundaries with patients; she also noted physicians should be ready and willing to identify and reflect on your own emotions so that “you have the capacity to get perspective on the problem and keep yourself from being part of the problem.
“Limit-setting is one of the most therapeutic things you can do with difficult patients,” she said. “It feels to us as a form of sadism, as though we are punishing patients. But for many patients, the most dangerous, scary, and dysfunctional thing you can do for patients is not set limits.”
SPEAKER: Gupreet Dhaliwal, MD, University of California at San Francisco
Humility, patience, and practice: Those are the keys to improving one’s clinical diagnostic skills, according to Dr. Dhaliwal, an acclaimed educator and clinician at UCSF who walked a packed room through two blind cases and encouraged hospitalists to work hard at their craft.
“If you want to reach your maximum potential, you have to view it the same way we do other things, the same way a great musician rehearses and a great soccer player scrimmages,” he said. “All of us are busy, but you either have to increase the number of cases you put your mind through, or you take the cases you have and you analyze them, you seek feedback, you try to improve the process around the diagnostic.
“The message isn’t always fun, because both of those things equal more work, but there is no way to hide it because there is no field in which people get better without more work.”
Dr. Dhaliwal says hospitalists should be “humble about diagnosis.” He explained that the more experienced people become, the more we shift from analytical reasoning, “thinking hard like we did when we were students and residents,” to intuitive reasoning, which “is basically saying, ‘I recognize a pattern, this is an old friend, I’ve seen gout before.’ I think any of us can be guilty of forgetting that it has pitfalls. And there is a whole list of cognitive biases that are associated with moving fast and building patterns.”
He also believes hospitalists who dedicate themselves to clinical greatness can parlay such improvement in the quality realm. “Every one of us has used diagnosis as a core part of our identity, but in terms of getting the community or other stakeholders behind improving diagnosis or improving judgment, I think the umbrella of quality and reducing diagnostic errors is the most appealing and most logical,” he says. “I think we start to take for granted we are good at it, but I think there are ways many of us, especially if we work at it, can become great at it.”
SPEAKER: Eric Siegal, MD, SFHM, critical care fellow, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison
Dr. Siegal’s review of literature in front of a packed crowd provided a road map to Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation (NPPV) usage. In the end, NPPV should be a hospitalist’s first choice for patients with hypercarbic COPD exacerbations, and likely in patients with acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema, hypoxemic respiratory failure, immunocompromised patients, and pre-intubation patients.
Dr. Siegal stressed the use of NPPV in COPD, which has been studied thoroughly and “held up to repeated scrutiny.”
“If you put people on NPPV instead of intubating them … mortality is halved, intubation rate is less than half, treatment failure is much lower, you have a third of the complications, and huge reductions in length of stay,” Dr. Siegal said.
In the absence of contraindications, he stressed, NPPV should be the first line of therapy for patients with hypercarbic COPD exacerbations. “In fact, I would argue that you really should be asking yourself, ‘Why can’t I put these patients on NPPV?’ ” he asked, “because this has really shown to be life-saving.”
Dr. Siegal also explored recent findings on NPPV in acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema patients, which surprisingly showed “no better than supplemental oxygen.” He concluded that if your patient is not hypercarbic, “there is no advantage to adding pressure support.” He also said the benefit is more robust in ACPE patients who have acute coronary syndrome.
Dr. Siegal advised hospitalists to pick the right patients, start NPPV therapy early, and if the patient doesn’t improve within one or two hours, “it’s time to move on.”