What is a Hospitalist?

male physician holding the shoulder of a male patient in a hospital bed

Have you or a loved one ever been admitted into a hospital? If so, you probably encountered a hospitalist during your stay. But did you fully understand who these providers were?

Hospitalists are physicians whose primary professional focus is the diagnosis and treatment of acutely ill patients who are in the hospital for care. These physicians are experts in providing the increasingly complex care patients admitted to the hospital require. Most hospitalists do not have outpatient office practices, like a primary care provider. Instead, they spend their day in the hospital, allowing them to focus on the care of the patient and management of their treatment during their stay. They accomplish this with an eye toward quality, safety and a patient-centered hospital experience.

Because these physicians remain in the hospital all day to care for patients, they’re able to rapidly follow up on test results, discuss a case with specialists, examine the patient’s response to treatment, and adjust the treatment as needed. This serves to maximize efficiency and ensure that a member of the hospitalist team is on-site and available to address patient needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week including holidays, nights, and weekends. Hospitalists also maintain close relationships with the patient’s primary care doctor as well as specialty physicians such as cardiologists and surgeons. This allows for a smooth transition of care both in the hospital and once the patient is discharged.

What about my primary care doctor?

The hospitalist managing your care is in communication with your primary care doctor by phone as often as necessary to provide the best care during your hospitalization. Many primary care doctors have access to the hospital’s patient records, which facilitates communication between the inpatient hospitalist and the outpatient primary care physician. This ensures safe transitions of care to the primary care setting once you’re discharged from the hospital.

Does this system benefit patients?

Health care research has proven that care provided by a hospitalist has increased quality of care as well as reduced health care costs. This translates to better care for patients, with fewer unnecessary tests, more efficient treatment, and earlier patient discharge.

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