Safer patients, improved quality of care, innovative uses of resources, increased job satisfaction: Those themes threaded their way through presentation after presentation at “Creating the Hospital of the Future: The Implications for Hospital-Focused Physician Practice,” a one-day meeting of hospitalist leaders and hospital administrators following the annual Health Forum/AHA Leadership Summit on July 21 in San Francisco.
The five-hour presentation to about 80 hospital CEOs, chief financial officers, and chief medical officers focused on the ever-expanding roles of subspecialty hospitalists and how subspecialty hospitalist programs can help administrators solve multiple challenges in an era of healthcare reform.
“When I started in 2007, I could only identify 15 hospitals in the United States with OB hospitalist programs. And now we know of 169, and the nation is adding one or two new programs a month,” says Rob Olson, MD, an OB/GYN hospitalistor “laborist”at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., and editor of ObGynHospitalist.com. “If you think about it, if you can make it safer for women in labor, then duh! Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
“The finances work best at a hospital that delivers more than 2,000 babies a year. But many small hospitals, like those doing 800 or 1,000 deliveries a year, have programs because it makes it safer for women in labor,” he says. “Therefore, even though it might be more expensive at those lower numbers, it’s worth it. It’s the right thing to do.”
The July meeting was the second time SHM gathered stakeholders to discuss the growth of specialty hospitalists; a similar panel of experts convened last November in Las Vegas. Most at the San Francisco meeting recognized the upward trend in such HM-focused subspecialties as neurology, orthopedics, obstetrics, and general surgery, according to John Nelson, MD, MHM, organizer of the focused-practice meetings.
“Most people in healthcare feel like this is going to continue and intensify,” says Dr. Nelson, cofounder and past president of SHM, medical director of the hospitalist practice at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Bellevue, Wash., and practice-management columnist for The Hospitalist. “There is consensus that each specialty can learn from the other about how they organize their practice and approach their work. There was consensus that we don’t have a lot of research data about what this means for things like cost of care, quality of care, patient experience, physician career longevity. So we need to encourage people to begin to study those things, and what this means for the stakeholders in healthcare.”
Four subspecialty hospitalists—neurohospitalist David Likosky, MD, SFHM, surgicalist John Maa, MD, orthopedic hospitalist Kurt Ehlert, MD, and Dr. Olson, the laborist—took part in a 90-minute panel discussion in which they explained their practice models and fielded questions from the audience.
“My message was that there are a large number of people doing this now—we estimate there are between 600 and 700 neurohospitalists nationally—and that the model holds a lot of promise. There’s not a huge amount of data right now on outcomes and other metrics, but we’re starting to see that data,” said Dr. Likosky, medical director of the Evergreen Neuroscience Institute in Kirkland, Wash., and co-founder of the Neurohospitalist Society (neurohospitalistsociety.org). “The neurohospitalist model is a good solution to many of the problems that hospitals are facing now.”