Hospitalist may be an unfamiliar word to you, but these doctors who specialize in caring for patients during their hospital stays are poised to become the predominate method for delivering inpatient care. The specialty has been around for more than a decade, but the number of hospitalists has surged only recently – from a few hundred in 1997 to nearly 20,000 today* – as more and more hospitals recognize their value.
Here for You
Unlike primary care physicians who must juggle their private practices with daily visits to hospital patients, hospitalists are in the hospital full time. A hospitalist communicates with patients’ primary care physicians, but is able to make quick, real-time decisions about patient care (rather than waiting for a primary physician to arrive) and spend more time with patients.
“The benefit to patients is that an experienced physician is available 24/7 to provide immediate, uninterrupted care from admission through discharge,” says Bart Sak, MD, medical director of the adult hospitalist program at Holland Hospital.
Also playing an important role in the hospital’s adult and pediatric hospitalist programs are highly trained physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other registered nurses. David Chamness, MD, medical director of the pediatric hospitalist program, assures parents that the pediatric hospitalist team is always nearby if they have a child at Holland Hospital.
“Parents who have a baby in our Boven Birth Center, or who bring their child to the hospital for inpatient medical care, can rest assured that our pediatric team has extensive experience in both common and complex childhood and neonatal conditions. It’s why we’re here,” says Dr. Chamness.
Other benefits of hospitalist care include:
What to Expect
Hospitalists generally specialize in internal medicine, family practice or pediatrics, and their participation in your or your child’s care begins with your consent and a referral from your primary care physician. Hospitalists examine patients daily, order tests and check results. They can consult with specialists and then coordinate all of their findings into a comprehensive plan of care. This plan is shared with the patient and the primary care physician.
Studies have shown that the improved efficiencies resulting from hospitalist care produce a high standard of quality care. But good communication is especially important. Your relationship with the hospitalist ends when you’re discharged, so it’s up to you and your regular doctor to follow through with the hospitalists’ discharge orders and recommendations. If you have questions, be sure to ask before leaving the hospital.
* Source: The Society of Hospital Medicine, www.hospitalmedicine.org.
** Source: New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 20, 2007.