Practice Economics

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Comanagement Business Models


One of the emerging trends in comanagement by hospitalists (see “The Comanagement Conundrum,” p. 1, April 2011) is an expanded role in the perioperative care of surgical patients—extending from before the operation into rehabilitation. To be successful, hospitalists should think more broadly than the usual focus on medical needs immediately post-surgery, says Burke Kealey, MD, director of perioperative comanagement at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.

The perioperative service at Regions includes staffing of a pre-operative clinic, a partnership with the hospital’s anesthesia department, and use of a pre-operative patient checklist. Many primary-care physicians (PCPs) want to retain a role in the pre-operative assessments of their patients, so the Regions service has tried to partner with physicians in the community to work on standardizing the process.

Dr. Kealey, an SHM board member, was hired by Regions’ orthopedic department right out of residency in 1995 to do medical comanagement of its patients. His service later was absorbed into an emerging HM department. It has experimented with models including the use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

As hospitalists, we can help to facilitate using the best, up-to-date medical knowledge, both before and after surgery.

—Burke Kealey, MD, director of perioperative comanagement, Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Minn., SHM board member

Today, Regions dedicates three of its 16 full-time hospitalist teams to comanagement services, largely on the orthopedics floor, but also for cardiovascular surgery and urology. “As hospitalists, we can help to facilitate using the best, up-to-date medical knowledge” both before and after surgery, he says.

At the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, a group of fellowship-trained geriatric hospitalists has taken on comanagement of hip fracture patients at the Geriatric Fracture Center, leading to improved processes and patient outcomes.1 According to hospitalist Susan M. Friedman, MD, MPH, the program began as a collaboration between a geriatrician and an orthopedic surgeon. They found that their patients’ outcomes seemed to be better when they worked together on a case, so they sat down to talk about what they were doing and how to standardize it.

“From the start, they set the tone for how this is supposed work, and when it doesn’t, they find out why and address it,” Dr. Friedman says. The program does not use a formal service agreement, but there is a strong emphasis on co-ownership, mutual respect, and communication. “One thing that has helped us a lot is data-gathering,” she adds. The hip fracture comanagement has cut lengths of stay and readmissions by half and complications by one-third for the mostly elderly patients.

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer based in Oakland, Calif.


  1. Friedman SM, Mendelson DA, Bingham KW, Kates SL. Impact of co-managed geriatric fracture center on short-term hip fracture outcomes. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(18):1712-1717.

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