The high cost of medical care and demands from an aging population have forced many changes in the health field.
Many physicians and hospitals today use hospitalists to care for patients when they are admitted to the hospital. The hospitalist communicates with the primary physician, but handles the patient’s care during time spent in the hospital.
Because the hospital is the primary site of their practice they are usually able to spend more time with patients than would the regular physician making “rounds” of all of his patients on his lunch hour, or on his way home after office hours.
Who are hospitalists?
Hospitalists complete med school and usually specialize in internal medicine, family practice or pediatrics. They might be members of a medical practice, or they may cover for one or several physicians independently. They might even be former students of your physician if s/he has taught in a local medical school. Physicians looking to reduce their workload may choose to become a hospitalist and give up their regular practice.
Hospitalists may sometimes be hired to handle on-call services for your physician after hours or weekends and holidays. So you may have contact with them if you need assistance after hours.
Who follows up?
Usually the only time you would be seen by the hospitalist is during and ER visit or hospital stay. Most do not provide follow-up care or have their own practice.
To ensure you have the best care, you should always carry a list of :
- your current medications
- medical conditions and on-going treatments
- physicians names and phone numbers.
If you visit the emergency room or are admitted to the hospital, ask for a complete discharge summary upon discharge to take to your physician. Insist that the hospitalist communicate with your physician regularly as well as any consultants s/he calls in to see you. After you have been discharged, make sure to call for a follow-up appointment with your physician. Take with you any new or changed medications, and any other new orders for diet, therapy or follow-up care.
What about home health care?
If you need home health care such as a visiting nurse or therapist, be sure the hospitalist orders the care and that your physician is notified so s/he can attend to oversight of this care. The hospitalist won’t continue to give orders beyond the initial order.