Managing Your Practice

Letters to the Editor

Pennsylvania group director sounds the call for hospitalist emancipation

Terms such as partners, associates, and K-1 are much less common in HM than other specialties. Instead, we are more familiar with such terms as medical director, employee, corporation-owned, hospital-owned, W-2. In most HM practices, there tends to be more of a hierarchal structure with unequal distribution of say and authority; 100% of the decision-making authority lies with two or three people in the group or organization.

I look around at my friends’ practices in other fields, the majority being privately owned with partnership track and equitable standing in the group, and I contrast that with what I see in nearly every HM group in my area. In HM, our fellow hospitalist must answer to his or her medical director, who then answers to the hospital administration. In many of the large, multistate corporations, the medical director answers to hospital administration as well as to a regional director, who then answers to the CMO of the corporation, who then answers to the CEO.

Rarely do you see a field of medicine that has such little autonomy. I believe it is time for hospitalists to step up to the plate and create practices in which we answer to ourselves and determine our own destinies.

Another phenomenon in HM demonstrates how everyone wants a piece of the HM action. In a 20-mile radius of where I practice, there are HM groups that have been started by specialists in other fields, including infectious disease, pulmonary, emergency medicine, and anesthesia. A cardiology acquaintance of mine recently started three hospitalist practices—single-handedly. These new additions are in addition to the HM groups started by hospital administrations and large multistate corporations.

The majority, but certainly not all, of these people or entities have very little understanding of what running a hospitalist practice entails. They might understand an HM practice to the extent that I understand how a hip replacement is done, procedurally, from my reading of a textbook or an operative note. Unless one currently practices or has recently practiced as a hospitalist, then it is difficult to fully grasp all the nuances of running an HM practice. Never have I seen a GI physician start up a cardiology group, nor have I seen an ER group start up an endocrine practice. Yet the majority of HM practices nationwide are started and controlled by entities other than the hospitalists themselves.

This recent epiphany has prompted me to sound the call for hospitalist emancipation. With a new generation of HM leaders, who now have both clinical and administrative experience in HM, it is time for hospitalists, not other specialists nor hospital administrators, to pave the course of our future in light of emerging healthcare reforms. Of course, we still need to work intimately with our parent hospitals, align our goals and vision, and be mindful of the construct in which HM is practiced. But I believe it is time for us to take control of our practices, because only we know what’s best for our patients and our fellow hospitalists.

Edward Ma, MD, hospitalist,

managing partner, Medical Inpatient Care Associates,

West Chester, Pa.,

president, The Hospitalist Consulting Group, LLC

ACGME not the only game in town for graduate medical education

I enjoy reading your column, but feel I must correct you regarding graduate medical education. You stated in your January 2011 column (“Turn to ACGME for Transfer, Resident Supervision Rules,” p. 39) that all U.S. postgraduate physician-training programs are governed by rules of the ACGME. Please note that there are hundreds of osteopathic postgraduate training programs throughout the country that are governed by the rules of the American Osteopathic Association and the osteopathic specialty colleges that sponsor these residencies and fellowships. If you need more information regarding this segment of postgraduate training, I would be more than happy to share more information with you.

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