So, the changing currents in medicine made it inevitable that the hospital medicine movement – and SHM – would have happened no matter what, right?
Not so much, said Laurence Wellikson, MD, MHM, chief executive officer of the Society of Hospital Medicine.
In his “State of SHM” address on Wednesday, Dr. Wellikson said that the way hospital medicine and SHM have flourished might make it seem that the movement would have taken off automatically, but that is not the case. It was a matter of foresight and hard work – and some luck, too, he said.
“How did Netflix pop up and not Blockbuster? Why did Sears not become Amazon?” he asked. “I think that SHM is very proud that we – very early on, when there were just a couple hundred hospitalists – saw the potential for this specialty.” At the same time, he said, “many of the other medical associations that were hundreds of years old not only did not see the potential for our specialty but, in many ways, were [also] somewhat contrary to the kinds of things that all of you have been doing over the last 20 years.”
He acknowledged that there were some “winds at our back” – it was clear that many physicians were wanting to leave the hospital – but he said the hospital medicine movement and the society nonetheless had to push up against resistance to change.
The movement continues to grow, he noted. As proof, there are 57,000 hospitalists, according to American Hospital Association surveys, and 15,000 SHM members.
In a note of caution, he recognized the many roles hospitalists are being asked to fill – from patient-safety projects to perioperative work – and said “hospitalists are more likely to say ‘yes’ when they should probably say ‘maybe.’ ” At the same time, he praised hospitalists for their openness to new ways of thinking and their willingness to partner.
Despite uncertainty, he said the future of health care is right up SHM’s alley.
“The future fits what hospital medicine is all about: We’re about value, we’re about creating the new future,” he said. “We’re about being accountable for what we do, being measured, and improving off those measures. … We understand that we need to give up some of our autonomy and be in an integrated process to benefit from the expertise and the energies of other people.”
He touted the vital role that hospitalists will play.
“As we stand here today, we are not just large. We are not just the fastest-growing medical specialty of all time,” he said. “We are the answer to many of the questions going forward.”