Hospital medicine formed to fill a void that had evolved. Before the busyness of administration and insurance compliance, primary care physicians used to visit and physically follow up on patients admitted to the hospital. In the ’90s, the world of primary care changed, and the ability to see hospitalized patients personally was no longer an option.
Now a care gap was created, and the question of who would provide hospitalized patients specific, personalized care while admitted, was left unanswered. This is where hospital medicine came into play or what is known today as the hospitalist. The term was invented by Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California. It simply means a generalist-specialist who cares for hospitalized patients.
Despite the absence of one’s primary doctor, while in the hospital, patients still need someone who is providing dedicated, specific care geared towards their unique needs. That’s the benefit that came with a primary care physician visit. No one knows a patient’s medical history like their primary doctor. The longevity and depth of understanding an individual’s health proved to assist in patients being diagnosed more accurately; therefore, being discharged readily quickly because a proper care plan was established and implemented on time.
Hospitalists become that specialist for hospitalized patients, orchestrating and overseeing their care. The job is to navigate the patient through a multitude of specialists and assist in weaving their care into one integrated plan.
Today, there are more than 60,000 hospitalists nationwide managing the care of inpatient stay. The roles vary and include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and practice administrators. Each job is seen as critical and proven to reduce readmission as well as patients’ length of hospital stay. The work is so essential; there is a day set aside in March and a week in May to recognize the contribution of these generalist-specialists.
One modality enhancing the prominence of the hospitalist is point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). Many hospitalists incorporate POCUS into their daily practice. As with the incomparable and matchless knowledge, the primary care physician provides their patients to ensure a speedy recovery, POCUS steps in to do the same. When accurately applied, this pocket-size device provides immediate and detailed answers to specific diagnostic questions.
Another similarity to the primary care doctor POCUS provides hospitalists is continuity and consistency of care. POCUS examinations are commonly performed by the same clinician who initially generated the relevant clinical question. This clinician discovers the answer via POCUS and ultimately integrates the findings into the patient’s care plan.
POCUS also helps hospitalists with monitoring patients during admission. For example, it has become a significant tool for tracking the progression of COVID-19 in individuals. When utilizing POCUS to view the lungs of COVID-19 patients’, it aids in predicting new and increased symptoms, allowing hospitalists the proactive measure of modifying treatment plans in advance. Having this preemptive measure has assisted in the fight against the coronavirus.
As our world shifts and the dependency on hospitalists increases, it is imperative to make room for advances in medicine like POCUS to assist in providing the personalized care patients expect and deserve. Better technology and support on the front end of the bedside equates to improved patient care and results on the back end.
- Howley, E. (November 19, 2018). What Is a Hospitalist? Retrieved, February 24, 2020 from https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-11-19/what-is-a-hospitalist.
- (n.d.). National Hospitalist Day. Retrieved, February 21, 2020 from https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-hospitalist-day-first-thursday-in-march/.
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