Hospitals are increasingly using hospitalist programs to manage the ongoing shift to value-based care, along with operating costs and the challenges of managing, recruiting and retaining high-quality physicians. When utilized effectively, hospitalist programs can reduce lengths of stay, the cost of hospitalization and readmission rates— improving patient outcomes and hospitals’ economics.
As introduced in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996, a hospitalist is defined as: a physician whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Hospitalists perform several functions in hospitals:
- Hospitalists: hospital-based physicians who provide internal medicine to patients admitted to hospitals as their attending physician
- Intensivists: physicians who provide specialty care for critically ill patients in intensive care units
- House physicians: specialty physicians (OB/GYN, gastroenterology, etc.) who round within hospitals and treat patients who cannot immediately be seen by their attending physician
In addition, as hospitals are increasingly accountable for patients throughout the continuum of care following discharge, the hospitalist model is being deployed in the post-acute environment. This has led to the rise of Skilled Nursing Facility Physicians (SN Fists), primary care specialists at post-acute care facilities, who typically specialize in geriatric care.
Hospitalists drive high-quality, cost-effective patient care, which increases medical staff satisfaction, reduces insurance denials, and increases reimbursement related to quality measures while also providing care for unassigned patients. Additionally, hospitalist programs free admitting physicians from frequent rounding in the hospital, allowing more time for office-based patient visits. Hospitalist programs can also be closely aligned with emergency department physician programs.