From the Society

Hospitalists: Leading health care innovation


As I begin my year as SHM president, I continue to be energized by the opportunity to be part of an organization that has such a positive impact on our nation’s health care system. From the beginning of my medical career to now, never have I witnessed a health care movement quite like hospital medicine.

Even when I first arrived in Southern California as a pulmonary/critical-care physician in 1987, there were groups of physicians who had taken financial risk on populations of managed-care patients and were paid using an “alternative payment model” called capitation. One of the innovations they had utilized since the early ’80s to successfully manage their risk – and their patients’ – was to have dedicated inpatient physicians caring for their hospitalized patients 24/7, while most of their primary care partners managed the group’s patients in the outpatient setting.

Dr. Ron Greeno

Dr. Ron Greeno

These inpatient specialists were, without a doubt, the first hospitalists, even though the creation of the name came many years after the model was first used. By the early 1990s, more and more groups (including mine) in pockets around the country started delivering care using this model. By the second half of the decade, we had a name, an emerging national identity, and even a medical society to bring us together and represent us and the issues we care about. As our health care system continues to change, there is no specialty as well positioned as hospital medicine to evolve with it.

This year will see a continued reshaping of our delivery system, driven by emerging federal policy like the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). All of this policy is designed to create a health care system that delivers high-quality care in a much more cost effective way. Many of these policies will result in groups of providers being pushed away from fee-for-service payment toward alternative payment models that involve higher levels of risk and opportunity. If we, as providers, are going to be successful in managing our “at risk” populations, we are going to have to be as innovative as our managed care forefathers. If we are not, we, as a society, are not going to be able to afford to deliver high-quality care to our nations sickest citizens.

At the center of much of this innovation will be hospitalists. After all, by its very nature, our model is a delivery system reform. The drive to deliver more-efficient quality care is in the very DNA of our specialty.

As decisions are made, they will have a significant impact on our patients and our careers. It will continue to be a priority for SHM to make sure that the voice of hospital medicine is heard loud and clear. We will continue to ask our members to ensure that the hospital medicine community has a prominent place in these conversations. Those who step up in this effort will lead us as we insist on having a prominent seat at the table and as new models of care emerge and new incentives are created for the provider community. We will continue to strive to make sure that our patients get the care they deserve and that we continue to help build a sustainable health care delivery system.

This year, you will also see a focused effort to strengthen SHM’s system of state and local chapters. The vitality of these local organizations is important to our efforts to effectively serve our members by engaging them with their colleagues at the local level. In our attempts to further connect our members with others who share similar interests and focuses, we will be rolling out a new structure of special interest groups. These local chapters and these interest groups will fuel new ideas that will continue to improve our specialty and the effectiveness of the society to speak for hospital medicine with a strong voice.

Of course, SHM will continue to be the only organization that was created to represent our nation’s hospitalists and will be totally committed to providing our members with clinical and administrative education, dedicated publications, leadership training, research opportunities, and advocacy. I look forward to serving you and helping you get the most from your SHM experience. Together, we will continue to move the hospital medicine movement forward, shaping our health care system and improving patient care.

Dr. Greeno is the incoming president of the Society of Hospital Medicine and senior adviser for medical affairs at TeamHealth.

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