According to SHM’s definition of a hospitalist, we think that the activities of this new physician should also include teaching and research related to hospital medicine. And as Dr. Steven Pantilat wrote, “patient safety, leadership, palliative care and quality improvement are the issues that pertain to all hospitalists.”2
Theoretically, the development of the hospitalist model should be easier in Italy when compared to the United States. Dr. Robert Wachter and Dr. Lee Goldman wrote in 1996 about the objections to the hospitalist model of American primary care physicians (“to preserve continuity”) and specialists (“fewer consultations, lower income”), but in Italy family doctors do not usually follow their patients in the hospital, and specialists have no incentive for in-hospital consultations.3 Moreover, patients with comorbidities, or pathologies on the border between medicine and surgery (e.g. cholecystitis, bowel obstruction, polytrauma, etc.), are already often assigned to internal medicine, and in the smallest hospitals, the internist is most of the time the only specialist doctor continually present.
Nevertheless, the Italian hospitalist model will be a challenge. We know we have to deal with organ specialists, but we strongly believe that this is the most appropriate and the most sustainable model for the future of the Italian hospitals. Our wish is not to become the “bosses” of the hospital, but to ensure global, coordinated, and respectful care to present and future patients.
Published outcomes studies demonstrate that the U.S. hospitalist model has led to consistent and pronounced cost saving with no loss in quality.4 In the United States, the hospitalist field has grown from a few hundred physicians to more than 50,000,5 making it the fastest growing physician specialty in medical history.
Why should the same not occur in Italy?