Should You Be Concerned?
These statistics probably should raise some concern for hospitalists and hospital medicine groups, as the number of hospital-employed physicians is already relatively high (26% according to a recent survey) and rises every year, including an increase of 6% from 2012 to 2013 alone.6 In order to survive in these tenuous conditions, healthcare systems, including hospitalists, will have to be much more involved in the “spectrum of care,” including population health, as opposed to only being involved in discrete acute care episodes. There undoubtedly will be a heavy reliance on telemedicine, seamless electronic medical records, and alternative treatment settings to bridge the gap between medical oases and medical deserts. All of these acute medical care extensions will very likely involve hospitalists.
For the most part, as long as the specialty of hospital medicine keeps its ear to the ground on what is coming, ensuring that we can all be flexible and responsive in meeting the needs of the population we serve, our specialty will be prepped and ready for the “sign of the times.” That way, even when medical deserts do appear, they are not “hostile for life” but are reasonably connected to a suitable oasis.
Dr. Scheurer is a hospitalist and chief quality officer at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She is physician editor of The Hospitalist. Email her at [email protected].
- Williams JP. What happens when a town’s only hospital shuts down? U.S. News and World Report online. November 8, 2013. Available at: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/hospital-of-tomorrow/articles/2013/11/08/what-happens-when-the-only-hospital-closes. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- Wikipedia. Desert. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- American Hospital Association. Fast facts on U.S. hospitals. Available at: http://www.aha.org/research/rc/stat-studies/fast-facts.shtml. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- Salhi RA, Edwards JM, Gaieski DF, Band RA, Abella BS, Carr BG. Access to Care for patients with time-sensitive conditions in Pennsylvania [published online ahead of print December 21, 2013]. Ann Emerg Med.
- Parks JM. Calhoun Memorial Hospital shuts down. Albany Herald online. February 4, 2013. Available at: http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2013/feb/04/calhoun-memorial-hospital-shuts-down. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- Vaidya A. Survey: number of hospital-employed physicians up 6%. Becker’s Hospital Review online. June 18, 2013. Available at: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/survey-number-of-hospital-employed-physicians-up-6.html. Accessed March 5, 2014.