Hospitalists - A Growing Specialty - Improve Patient Care

by Michael Johns, Project Manager | June 20, 2006

The number of hospitalists is expected to double again within four years, rising to about 30,000 by 2010, making the field about the size of cardiology, according to the organization.

During the past five years, the number of hospitalists on staff at Jewish and St. Mary's hospitals has nearly doubled, to about 20, Simon said.

And the five hospitalist practices that treat patients at the company's two Louisville hospitals are recruiting more physicians, she said, adding that details about the number of patients the hospitalists see are not available.

Officials with other Louisville health care organizations have seen similar growth trends but said they do not have firm data to show the growth because they don't track the number of hospitalists on their staffs.
Trend good for doctors and hospitals

The fact that most family physicians need more patients to keep their practices profitable seems to be one of the primary factors that is driving the growth of hospitalists, Simon said.

And hospitals welcome the change, she added, because patients who have a hospitalist following their care generally get faster responses to their needs.

Dr. Tami Secor, a primary-care physician with Baptist Medical Associates, said she likes referring all of her hospital patients to Gabbard's Nikorb group for a number of reasons.

One benefit is that she doesn't have to rush to the hospital when her patients need something. She also believes her patients need someone who is more knowledgeable about the needs of patients in a hospital setting.

"Medicine in general is getting more complex," she said. "It is hard to be an expert in everything that someone will need. Inpatient medicine is not an exception. If you are dealing with it all the time, you may recognize something faster than someone who is not as familiar (with a complex condition). It is not necessarily that the training is different, it is really just what you do every day."

Simon likened the growth in the use of hospitalists to the trend more than a decade ago of having physicians specialize in emergency medicine. She said both specialties require physicians to hone different skills that improve patient care.
Patient satisfied with care

Simon said officials with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary's HealthCare also find that patients enjoy having someone more concentrated on their care in an inpatient setting.

One of Gabbard's patients, Robert Hickey, 64, said that because his No. 1 priority was getting out of the hospital, he appreciated the extra attention he received by having someone at the hospital working full-time to follow his care and attend to his needs while he was at the hospital.