The Two Most Valuable Things For A Patient To Hear Are…
- That their PCP is in favor of the referral to a hospitalist, and that the patient’s relationship with the PCP will remain intact. Many patients worry that the arrival of the hospitalist means they won’t see their PCP ever again. Hence, the value in mentioning the patient will follow up with their usual PCP after discharge.
- That the hospitalist is a doctor devoted to the care of hospitalized patients, or a specialist in hospital care, rather than just a doctor who happens to be available.
My experience is that some PCPs worry that their patients might think less of them if they don’t provide hospital care. So despite good intentions, these PCPs’ words, demeanor, or body language could communicate unhappiness in, or something other than enthusiasm for, the hospitalist. The PCP may tell the patient something like, “I’m sending you to the hospital where you’ll be seen by a hospitalist, but I’ll be involved or overseeing everything.” This might be said with the intention of reassuring the patient, but it has the effect of undermining the patient’s confidence in the hospitalist. Such PCPs would benefit from adopting a better script.
It takes a reasonable amount of encouragement and cajoling to get others to adopt a script like I’ve suggested above, and requires periodic remedial education to ensure it isn’t abandoned in favor of old habits. But it is worth the effort.
Ensure Others Know the Hospitalist’s Name
Using the above scripts will have limited value if others don’t have a way of knowing the name of the hospitalist who will actually see the patient. If a worried family walks out of a room and asks the nurse, “Who is taking care of my father?” it is a lot better for the nurse to respond with the hospitalist’s name rather than “Your father is on the gold service, and the gold team doctor will be around later. I’m not sure which doctor has the gold service today.”
Try to ensure that everyone at the hospital knows which hospitalist is caring for every patient every day.
Dr. Nelson has been a practicing hospitalist since 1988. He is co-founder and past president of SHM, and principal in Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants. He is course co-director for SHM’s “Best Practices in Managing a Hospital Medicine Program” course