The next time you or a loved one has to spend time in a hospital, you may encounter a different kind of physician: a hospitalist. Hospitalists are physicians who specialize in the general medical care of hospitalized patients. They typically have limited or no outpatient responsibilities, so they can devote their full-time and attention to patients who are in the hospital. Once patients are admitted, the hospitalist takes on responsibility for their care for the entirety of the patients’ stay. After discharge, care reverts back to patients’ personal physicians.
Better Care, Shorter Stays
The hospitalist role is based on the concept that the more experience a physician has with in-hospital care, the better the quality of care. Hospitalists do tend to offer increased experience with inpatient conditions and procedures. And hospitalists do not have to juggle a busy office schedule with hospital rounds. The hospital is, in effect, their office. This often results in shorter hospital stays, because hospitalists are on hand full-time to order tests and approve discharges.
Patients who may be a little uncomfortable at the prospect of seeing a different doctor while they are in the hospital can rest assured, their personal physician will be kept in the loop. Hospitalists inform patients’ personal physicians of all major decisions made in the hospital and send them complete discharge summaries. In fact, surveys have shown that most patients are happy with the care they receive from hospitalists.