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The Future of the Society of Hospital Medicine


Larry Wellikson, MD, SFHM

In the June edition of The Hospitalist, I wrote about the “Future of Hospital Medicine.” I wanted to concentrate this column on how SHM is evolving to support this vision of the future.

I previously referenced the variability of maturity and competence of the thousands of HM groups (HMGs) spread across the nation. SHM is considering creating standards that are validated by the stakeholders in hospital medicine. We hope that each HMG might use these standards to assess its own stage of development. For those HMGs that are already performing at a high level, SHM might recognize this status with an award. For those not quite at the highest level of function, SHM hopes to work with other organizations in HM to create programs and projects to raise your level of function. Our goal is for this process to be aspirational and, hopefully, support HMGs by having a platform to request more resources and to develop additional capabilities so that more and more HMGs over time can reach the highest level of function.

Attracting the Future of Hospital Medicine

SHM also recognizes that as we strive to have hospitalists continue to be key partners in creating the hospital of the future, we need to attract the best medical students and residents into hospital medicine. With this in mind, SHM is developing a detailed plan to communicate with medical students and residents about the best aspects of a career in HM. While this strategy has a long lead time, we do expect that over the next five to 10 years, more and more students will select HM as their career—and give us a deeper bench strength to meet the needs of future HMGs.

In order to keep hospitalists at the top of their game, SHM is looking for innovative ways to provide key educational content. Currently, the SHM annual meeting ( is the largest gathering of hospitalists, but even this huge meeting only attracts 25% of our members. Plans are under way to expand the reach of the annual meeting, allowing remote learning and participation through streaming and Web-based technology. For those 3,000 hospitalists who travel to the SHM annual meeting, SHM is looking to expand networking opportunities and create content for the bedside that is taught at the meeting, but that can be easily transported (e.g. via smartphone or tablet) with the attendee back to the bedside.

SHM continues to obtain funding from the government, foundations, and industry to provide tools and support to help hospitalists make real improvements at their hospitals.

Certification, MOC, and Leadership

Hospitalists now and in the future will need to have tools that help them maintain their board certification and licensure. SHM has developed hospitalist-specific medical knowledge modules (MKMs) and self-assessment products, and has started to develop Performance Improvement Modules (PIMs) for hospitalists ( SHM plans to partner with ACP, ABIM, and other organizations to allow our members access to additional important resources during the maintenance of certification (MOC) process. SHM’s commitment is to work with the boards to create the best interface and support for hospitalists during their lifelong learning and their certification efforts.

For those of you who already are HMG leaders, or are aspiring to become leaders, SHM has its nationally recognized Leadership Academies (, which have educated more than 2,000 hospitalist leaders. This year, we launch the Certification in Hospital Medicine Leadership program to provide recognition of those trained and committed to providing future leadership of the HMG and their hospitals. This unique certification will be an important credential for organizations and institutions recruiting new leaders, as well as for hospitalists looking for career advancement to become the leaders of the future.

Leadership in Performance Improvement

SHM continues to obtain funding from the government, foundations, and industry to provide tools and support to help hospitalists make real improvements at their hospitals. To date, SHM has been active in improving transitions of care in more than 500 hospitals with Project BOOST, preventing DVTs, and improving glycemic control ( SHM now spends more than $3 million annually in these quality-improvement (QI) efforts, which are directed primarily at helping hospitalists improve their hospitals. Recently named the winner of the prestigious Eisenberg Award, given by the National Quality Forum and the Joint Commission, SHM expects that its QI efforts will expand to $5 million to $10 million annually in the coming years and provide opportunities for many of our members to be change agents. All of the changes on the horizon only increase the need for SHM to provide support to our hospitalists as they are called upon to lead and manage change.

SHM is no longer a small fringe medical society. With more than 11,000 members in all 50 states and Canada, SHM truly is a big tent. And the family keeps expanding as we now include internists, pediatricians, family physicians, medical students, residents, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, administrators, pharmacists, and nurses. In addition, HM now includes those practicing outside the hospital in extended-care facilities, long-term care and rehab facilities, LTACs, and other post-acute-care venues. And the ranks of hospitalists are increasing with the addition of hospitalists in such specialties as obstetrics, acute-care surgery, neurology, and orthopedics.

To continue to be the big tent for all hospitalists but still create a society with opportunities for networking and affinity groups, SHM has embarked on several strategies. SHM plans to create virtual communities (i.e. social networking) using Higher Logic. We plan to start with cohorts in Project BOOST and alumni from our Quality and Safety Educators Academy (QSEA) and our Leadership Academies, where contacts already have been made face to face over time. We see this as applicable for any subset of SHM that has the need and desire to create virtual communities and connections.

SHM also has created sections for our members trained in med-peds and international members from around the globe. In the future, SHM could expand to have 10 to 20 sections, including those for family physicians or pediatricians or nurse practitioners or administrators. We hope these organizations within an organization will give our members a platform to be in contact with other hospitalists just like themselves and create an opportunity for SHM to continually understand our members’ needs, and to design those projects and programs to meet those needs.

Just as our nation’s hospitalists are challenged to be innovative and creative as they play an active role in developing the hospital of the future, it is important for SHM to continue to evolve and develop new technologies and approaches to ensure our members have the support they need for the difficult tasks ahead.

Dr. Wellikson is CEO of SHM.

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