If you find yourself in the hospital in San Diego, you will surely meet a member of one of medicine’s fastest growing specialties: the hospitalist. Created in response to a growing need twenty years ago, the nation’s hospitals now employ an estimated 44,000 hospitalists, and the specialty is only expected to expand in the coming years. Doctors who practice hospital medicine are most commonly internists who specialize in managing the treatment of hospitalized patients, and managing their aftercare to prevent re-admittance. At teaching hospitals, they are often also faculty members, who rarely have their own independent practices. San Diego’s major hospital networks use hospitalists to improve patient care, and to coordinate aftercare with family, caregivers and homecare companions.
As the care that patients receive in the hospital becomes more complicated, coordinating treatment among multiple departments, multiple physicians and multiple medication regimens requires a dedicated doctor who sees the whole picture for each patient. The hospitalist provides comprehensive care, keeping small details from falling through the cracks, and reducing the risk of interactions and complications. When the patient prepares to leave the hospital, the hospitalist ensures that caregivers know the aftercare regimen, and have access to the resources they need once the patient is discharged. According to the UCSD website, one of the best arguments for hospitalists are the studies that show they are partially responsible for “declines in length of hospital stays, reductions in complications and improved patient outcomes.”
Doctors who specialize in hospital medicine have high standards and professional ethics that contribute to their impact in the improvement of patient care. The Society of Hospital Medicine offers a description of the medical specialty of hospital medicine, and the value that hospitalists offer to patients and hospitals on their website:
“A medical specialty dedicated to the delivery of comprehensive medical care to hospitalized patients. Practitioners of hospital medicine include physicians (“hospitalists”) and non-physician providers who engage in clinical care, teaching, research, or leadership in the field of general hospital medicine. In addition to their core expertise managing the clinical problems of acutely ill, hospitalized patients, hospital medicine practitioners work to enhance the performance of hospitals and healthcare systems by:
- Prompt and complete attention to all patient care needs including diagnosis, treatment and the performance of medical procedures (within their scope of practice).
- Employing quality and process improvement techniques
- Collaboration, communication and coordination with all physicians and healthcare personnel caring for hospitalized patients
- Safe transitioning of patient care within the hospital, and from the hospital to the community, which may include oversight of care in post-acute care facilities.
- Efficient use of hospital and healthcare resources”
In San Diego, UC San Diego Health hospitals, the Sharp Rees-Stealy hospitals, and Palomar Health hospitals all employ hospitalists. There are many advantages to living in America’s Finest City, and the focused, dedicated care of the hospitalists in San Diego’s hospitals are just one of them.