Patient Care

Rural Hospitalist Practice: First Among Equals


 

Louis O’Boyle, DO, FACP, FHM, says hospitalists with an entrepreneurial bent can use flexibility and creativity to design HM programs that meet the unique needs of small or rural hospitals. He owns a hospitalist practice, Advanced Inpatient Medicine, which serves 98-bed Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, Pa., population 4,874.

“In 2006, the largest group of community physicians locally said they were not going to do hospital coverage or take unassigned hospitalized patients anymore,” Dr. O’Boyle says. The hospital first brought in an out-of-town consultant to provide hospitalist services, but in 2009, Dr. O’Boyle seized the opportunity to fill the need. He formed his own company, which employs five hospitalists providing 24/7 coverage (clinicians rotate between 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. shifts and 4 p.m.-to-8 a.m. shifts). The hospitalist on duty can often go home after the ED slows down, he says, although hiring a sixth hospitalist would make it easier to provide a 24-hour presence.

Dr. O'Boyle

“Our hospitalists see an average of 12 patients a day, so we’re not running too hard. You can take time to do a good job, and still have supper with your kids some workdays. In a rural area, you can still get away with that,” Dr. O’Boyle says. “We have a good salary, work schedule, and caseload. We have a great team, with everyone on board with what we’re trying to do.”

Members of Dr. O’Boyle’s group sit on all of the hospital’s committees. Many have a say in changes that go on at the hospital. The group is active in quality and safety projects and research on readmission rates. The program has been so successful that he is negotiating to cover several other hospitals in the region.

“Another key to the success of this program is our fiscal responsibility, demonstrating the value we bring to the hospital,” he says. “We align our goals with the hospital’s goals. We have cut length of stay by an average of three-quarters of a day. We were very involved with the IT department in setting up EHR and CPOE to our specifications. There is a whole list of things we do to justify our worth, and our subsidy payment from the hospital is particularly low.”

Dr. O’Boyle, in addition to his practice-management responsibilities, works alongside his colleagues. “It’s not like I’m the boss—more like I’m first among equals,” he says. “We meet as a team once a month.”

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