As my SHM presidency wraps up, it is a good time to reflect on the past year in hospital medicine. Dominated by COVID-19 preparedness, mitigation, and (now) recovery efforts, the impacts of COVID-19 throughout the medical industry have been profound. For hospital medicine, although we have endured work and home stress unlike anything in recent memory, fortunately a few notably good changes have come about as a result of COVID-19.
Hospitalists have proven that we are extremely capable of adapting to rapidly changing evidence-based practice. The old adage of evidence taking 7 years to become mainstream clinical practice certainly has not been the paradigm during COVID-19. In many cases, clinical care pathways were changing by the week, or even by the day. Usage of SHM’s website, HMX, and educational platforms rose exponentially to keep pace with the changing landscape. Information exchange between and among hospital medicine groups was efficient and effective. This is exactly how it should be, with SHM serving as the catalyst for such information exchange.
Hospitalists were able to shift to telehealth care as the need arose. The use of telehealth is now becoming a core competency for hospitalists around the country, and we are leading the way for other specialists in adoption. COVID-19 enabled not only rapid transformation, but also better payer coverage for the use of all types of telehealth services. SHM will remain a source of training and education in telehealth best practices going forward.
Related, hospitalists also found their programs were being asked to become purveyors for remote monitoring and hospital-at-home programs. Because CMS has allowed some reimbursement for these programs, at least during the public health emergency, hospital medicine programs can more feasibly pursue building and sustaining such programs, and SHM can serve as the hub for best practice exchanges in the field.
The pandemic also created a sizable shift in the mindset of the need and enthusiasm for mainstream maintenance of certification. Although there were already questions about the value of high-stakes exams before the pandemic, both within and outside the medical industry, the pandemic created an immediate need to shift away from such exams. Now, the entire pipeline is questioning the value of these high-stakes exams, such as SATs and ACTs for college admissions, Step 1 exams for medical students, and certification exams for physicians. The pandemic has made us question these milestone exams with more scrutiny and has created a sense of urgency for a change to more adult-learner–focused alternatives. SHM will continue to be at the centerpiece of the discussion, as well as the leader in cultivating educational venues for continuous learning.
So where do we go from here?
I am confident that SHM will continue to pay deep attention to the activities that bring value to hospitalists and support changing practice patterns such as telehealth and hospital-at-home work. Not only will SHM serve as a center for best practices and a conduit for networking and information sharing at the national level – there will be significantly more focus on the support and growth of local chapters. SHM realizes that local chapters are a vital source of networking, education, and pipeline development and will continue to increase the resources to make the chapter programs dynamic and inviting for everyone interested in hospital medicine.
While this presidency year was far different than expected, I have continuously been amazed and delighted with the resiliency and endurance of our hospitalists around the country. We stood out at the front lines of the pandemic, with a mission toward service and a relentless commitment to our patients. Although we still have a long way to go before the pandemic is behind us, I firmly believe we are emerging from the haze stronger and more agile than ever. Thank you for allowing me to serve this incredible organization during such a tumultuous and unforgettable year.
Yours in service.
Dr. Scheurer is a hospitalist and chief quality officer, MUSC Health System, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. She is the outgoing president of SHM.