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Featured: The rise of the hospitalist

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | April 28, 2014
From the April 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Communication and transition of care
Of course, no health care specialty is immune to challenges.

Dr. Bridget Duffy helped launch one of the first hospital medicine programs in the country in 1991, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. Duffy later served as chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic. She saw her hospitalist role as that of a navigator and an advocate for patients and their families, but she says communication can be lacking in some hospital medicine programs.

“The premise of a hospitalist is a really good thing,” Duffy says. “But what’s happened is they’ve become overburdened with the number of the patients they see. They often don’t have a connection with the patient or primary care doctor. Really good and really successful hospitalist programs care about and value great communication and relationships with the patient, the nurses, the specialists and the referring physicians in the community.”

Duffy now works as the chief medical officer of Vocera, a mobile communications company that creates patient-centered technologies used in hospitals. She helps the organization design and acquire technology solutions that she says improves communication and outcomes across the care continuum.

Communication is challenging for anyone on staff at a hospital, says Dr. Herbert Archer, director of the hospitalist program at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn., which was founded about 10 years ago and became a 24/7 program six years ago. Before that, the program covered patients during the day and then was an on-call service for local physicians at night and on the weekends.

“We have to establish a rapport with a patient we just met — that’s always been a challenge for hospitalists.”

Technology has certainly made things easier. Greenwich Hospital uses the Epic electronic medical record system, which is accessible to doctors throughout the community.

“Something like Epic has actually really helped when all of the pieces have come into place,” Archer says. “It’s virtually seamless. I can meet you in the ER knowing your entire medical history and treatment plan.”

It’s also important for patients to know more about the physician treating them. Some facilities have photos of hospitalists up on their websites. Greenwich Hospital helps the introduction along the old fashioned way. All the hospitalists have their own business cards with a brief educational synopsis, an explanation of what a hospitalist is and their contact information.

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