“Sometimes you are the only one available, and you are called upon to stretch your abilities,” says Beatrice Szantyr, MD, FAAP, a community hospitalist and pediatrician in Lincoln, Maine, who has practiced most of her career in rural settings.
Academic hospitalists in large, research-based HM programs can, paradoxically, find themselves performing fewer procedures as residents often take the lead on the majority of such cases. Conversely, academic hospitalists in large, nonteaching programs often find themselves called on to perform more bedside procedures.
No matter the setting, the simplicity of being the physician to recognize the need for a procedure, perform it, and interpret the results is undeniably efficient and “clean,” according to authorities on inpatient bedside procedures. Having to consult other physicians, optimize the patient’s lab values to their standards (a common issue with interventional radiologists), and adhere to their work schedules can often delay procedures unnecessarily.
—Joshua Lenchus, DO, RPh, FACP, FHM, associate director, University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Hospital (UM-JMH) Center for Patient Safety
“Hospitalists care for floor and ICU patients in many hospitals, and the inability to perform bedside procedures delays patient care,” says Dr. Nilam Soni, an academic hospitalist at the University of Chicago and a recognized expert on procedural safety.
Dr. Soni notes that when it comes to current techniques, many hospitalists suffer from a knowledge deficit. “The introduction of ultrasound for guidance of bedside procedures has been shown to improve the success and safety of certain procedures,” he says, “but the majority of practicing hospitalists did not learn how to use ultrasound for procedure guidance during residency.”
Heterogeneity of Training, Experience, and Skill
While all hospitalists draw upon different bases of training and experience, the heterogeneity of training, confidence, and inherent skill is greatest when it comes to bedside procedures. Mirroring the heterogeneity at the individual level, hospitalist programs vary greatly on the requirements placed on their staffs in regards to procedural skill and privileging.
Such research-driven programs as Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston often find requiring maintenance of privileges in bedside procedures to be difficult, says Sally Wang, MD, FHM, director of procedural education at BWH. In fact, a new procedure service being created there will be staffed mainly with ED physicians. On the flipside, most community hospitalist programs leave the task of procedural “policing” to the hospital’s medical staff affairs office.
At the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center, the HM group is instituting a division standard in which hospitalists maintain privileging and proficiency in a core group of bedside procedures. Other large hospitalist groups have created “proceduralist” subgroups that shoulder the burden of trainee education, as well as provide a resource for less skilled or less experienced inpatient providers.
“If you have a big group, you could have a dedicated procedure service and have a core group of hospitalists who are experts in procedure,” Dr. Barsuk says. “But it needs to be self-sustaining.” Once started, Dr. Barsuk says, proceduralist groups would continue to provide hospitals with ongoing return-on-investment (ROI) benefit.
Variability in procedure volume and payor mix, however, can make it hard for HM groups to demonstrate to hospital leadership a satisfactory ROI for a proceduralist program. Financial backing from grant support or a high-volume procedure—such as paracentesis in hospitals with large hepatology programs—can nurture starting proceduralist programs until all procedural revenues can justify the costs. Lower ROI can also be justified by showing improvement in quality indices—such as CLABSI rates—reduced time to procedures, and reduced costs compared to other subspecialists offering similar services.