LAS VEGAS—Susan Eschenburg, practice program manager at Independent Hospitalist Practice in Jackson, Mich., sat in the practice management pre-course at HM14 and listened to a panel of experts discuss hospitalists’ growing role in post-acute care centers such as skilled nursing facilities.
You could almost hear the bell go off in her head.
“We work in an underserved area, and we’ve just [been asked] if we would be interested in supplying a hospitalist in some of these nursing homes,” Eschenburg said. “We’re going to listen to a spiel next month about that. That was real-time and interesting to listen to.”
That was the point of the practice management sessions at SHM’s annual meeting here at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino: to give the most current updates available to administrators, group leaders, and rank-and-file hospitalists about best practices in the day-to-day operation of a group.
For Eschenburg, the lessons learned here are particularly helpful; her group just launched its hospitalist program in September and is dealing with a variety of implementation questions, including whether to use scribes to enhance patient-physician interaction, improve documentation, save physician time, and reduce technology-related errors. Other issues that resonate with her include scheduling and the amount of time that administrative leaders should spend in the clinical setting.
The meeting helped “[us] to see if there’s anything out there that we haven’t thought about or talked about,” Eschenburg said. “We’re not this big corporate giant that can’t make quick movements.”
Whether a hospitalist is working at a new practice in an underserved area or as a department head at a massive academic institution, a new white paper from SHM can provide information on how to move toward those best practices. “The Key Principles and Characteristics of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group: An Assessment Guide for Hospitals and Hospitalists” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jhm.2119/full), published in February in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, lists 10 guiding principles and 47 individual characteristics as a launching point for best practices.
Although the white paper is a first-of-its-kind initiative, SHM isn’t stopping there. Society staff and committee members are working to roll out a pilot program later this year that will ask group leaders to validate the key characteristics. SHM will provide back-up documentation, such as sample business plans or other toolkits, to implement some of the recommendations. Group leaders will be asked to use the documentation to determine whether or not it helps them achieve the goals.
“One valuable thing that could come out of the pilot is not just feedback from you that will help us refine the key characteristics, but also ideas about resources that SHM can provide to help you better accomplish the things the key characteristics set forth,” said Leslie Flores, MHA, a partner in Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants, a member of SHM’s Practice Analysis Committee, and a co-director for the popular practice management pre-course, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Managing in the Era of Healthcare Reform.”
Put more simply by Flores’ consulting colleague, John Nelson, MD, MHM, FACP: “We’ll learn from each other the best ways to do this.”
SHM senior vice president Joe Miller added that the white paper “simply identifies the characteristics and includes a rationale as to why they’re included.” The pilot program, however, will produce “a more enriched tool that you can use in a more directed fashion,” Miller said, “but we felt it was important to get this out right now and get the sense that we’ve identified the right issues.”
SHM CEO Larry Wellikson, MD, SFHM, said the initiative is “bold” and encouraged HM groups that are below standard in any area to step up their games.
“What we’re saying to you and your colleagues is that some of you aren’t performing necessarily at the best level you can,” Dr. Wellikson said. “We want to give you a pathway to get better, because at the end of the day, we’re all in this to deliver the best care we can to our patients. So we recognize where we aren’t perfect, and we try to improve.”
Those seeking practice management advice said they’re always thinking about ways to improve, and being with 3,600 like-minded folks often helps tease out tidbits and strategies to get better.
Sunil Kartham, MD, a hospitalist at Altru Health System in Grand Forks, N.D., said he enjoys hearing HM leaders give advice, whether they’re practice administrators in individual sessions or keynote speakers in large ballrooms.
“When you’re [an] individual physician, you don’t know what to expect in the future,” Dr. Kartham said. “When the leaders come and speak, they lay out a map for you…so you can prepare yourself.”
Preparing for what the future might bring is what drew Angelo Barile, MD, to the meeting. As the head of the hospitalist group at Cleveland Clinic Lorain Family Health and Surgery Center in Lorain, Ohio, he’s always looking for tips on how to improve the practical side of running a 12-FTE group.
“It helps to see how other people do it, and you get a nice framework of how to do it,” said Dr. Barile. “As busy as we are, running the group [and] seeing patients, it’s nice to get away from the pager [and] get away from my administrators and my bosses and say, ‘I want to try to learn something here.’ It is refreshing.”
Education doesn’t end with the meeting’s finale. Dr. Barile traditionally holds a sit-down with his staff as soon as he returns home. The doctors discuss the new ideas Dr. Barile learned and determine as a group what could work in their practice.
Eschenburg, the nascent program manager in Michigan, said she gets the same reaction when she returns from professional meetings.
“It’s certainly something that people are looking for when you get back,” she said. “What did you learn? What can you share with us?”