From the Society

The state of hospital medicine in 2018


What are hospitalists’ other new roles?

“We have a large group of 50 doctors, with about 40 FTEs, and we are evolving from the traditional generalist role toward more subspecialty comanagement,” said Bryan Huang, MD, physician adviser and associate clinical professor in the division of hospital medicine at the University of California–San Diego. “Our hospitalists are asking what it means to be an academic hospitalist as our teaching roles have shrunk.”

Dr. Bryan Huang, physician adviser and associate clinical professor in the division of hospital medicine at the University of California–San Diego

Dr. Bryan Huang

Dr. Huang recently took on a new role as physician adviser for his hospital in such areas as utilization review, patient flow, and length of stay. “I’m spearheading a work group to address quality issues – all of which involve collaboration with other professionals. We also developed an admitting role here for a hospitalist whose sole role for the day is to admit patients.” Nationally up to 51.2% of hospitalist groups utilize a dedicated daytime admitter.

The report found that hospital services for which hospitalists are more likely to be attendings than consultants include GI/liver, 78.4%; palliative care, 77.3%; neurology/stroke, 73.6%; oncology, 67.8%; cardiology, 56.9%; and critical care, 50.7%. Conditions where hospitalists are more likely to consult rather than admit and attend include neurosurgery, orthopedics, general surgery, cardiovascular surgery, and other surgical subspecialties.

Other hospital services routinely provided by adult-only hospitalists include care of patients in an ICU setting (62.7%); primary responsibility for observation units (54.6%); primary clinical responsibility for rapid response teams (48.8%); primary responsibility for code blue or cardiac arrest teams (43.8%); nighttime admissions or tuck-in services (33.9%); and medical procedures (31.5%). For pediatric hospital medicine groups, care of healthy newborns and medical procedures were among the most common services provided, while for hospitalists serving adults and children, rapid response teams, ICUs, and specialty units were most common.

Figure 7. Outside the hospital

New models of payment for health care

As the larger health care system is being transformed by new payment models and benefit structures, including accountable care organizations (ACOs), value-based purchasing, bundled payments, and other forms of population-based coverage – which is described as a volume-to-value shift in health care – how are these new models affecting hospitalists?

Observers say penetration of these new models varies widely by locality but they haven’t had much direct impact on hospitalists’ practices – at least not yet. However, as hospitals and health systems find themselves needing to learn new ways to invest their resources differently in response to these trends, what matters to the hospital should be of great importance to the hospitalist group.

“I haven’t seen a lot of dramatic changes in how hospitalists engage with value-based purchasing,” Dr. White said. “If we know that someone is part of an ACO, the instinctual – and right – response is to treat them like any other patient. But we still need to be committed to not waste resources.”

Hospitalists are the best people to understand the intricacies of how the health care system works under value-based approaches, Dr. Huang said. “That’s why so many hospitalists have taken leadership positions in their hospitals. I think all of this translates to the practical, day-to-day work of hospitalists, reflected in our focus on readmissions and length of stay.”

Dr. Williams said the health care system still hasn’t turned the corner from fee-for-service to value-based purchasing. “It still represents a tiny fraction of the income of hospitalists. Hospitals still have to focus on the bottom line, as fee-for-service reimbursement for hospitalized patients continues to get squeezed, and ACOs aren’t exactly paying premium rates either. Ask almost any hospital CEO what drives their bottom line today and the answer is volume – along with optimizing productivity. Pretty much every place I look, the future does not look terribly rosy for hospitals.”

Ms. Himebaugh said she is bullish on hospital medicine, in the sense that it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. “Hospitalists are needed and provide value. But I don’t think we have devised the right model yet. I’m not sure our current model is sustainable. We need to find new models we can afford that don’t require squeezing our providers.”

For more information about the 2018 State of Hospital Medicine Report, contact SHM’s Practice Management Department at: [email protected] or call 800-843-3360. See also:

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