The Benefits of This Dedicated Group of Physicians
At 100 beds or fewer, small community hospitals face unique challenges. Though these facilities are crucial to ensuring that rural communities have access to healthcare, providing efficient, cost-effective care can be a challenge. In small hospitals, hospitalist physicians can help to bridge this gap, offering high-quality, specialized care. Having hospitalists can also prevent physician burnout and increase retention. These physicians can reduce the strain that is typically placed on primary care physicians.
What is a hospitalist?
Hospitalists are board-certified physicians who specialize in treating patients in the hospital. Most hospitalists are internal medicine physicians, though physicians of other specialties, such as nephrologists, pulmonologists, or intensive care doctors, can also choose to practice as hospitalists. These physicians are typically responsible for coordinating a patient’s care while in the hospital. Often, this group has more availability to answer family questions, order follow-up tests, and communicate with other specialists as needed.
A newer model of care
The use of hospitalists allows for a more cost-efficient, coordinated care approach. Other benefits can include:
- Less strain on primary care physicians
- More convenience
- Increased efficiency
- Having a clear point-of-contact for a patient’s family members
- Shorter length of stay for patients
Unique challenges of small hospitals
Community hospitals are the backbone of making sure that everyone has access to appropriate healthcare. However, small hospitals or rural hospitals often face unique challenges. For example, community hospitals often lack high-end service lines that would drive profits, have fewer resources, and lack economies of scale.
The role of hospitalists
Most studies on the role of hospitalists have focused on urban communities. However, one study assessed 400 rural hospitals who used hospitalists. The researchers found that the use of hospitalists improved efficiency, quality of care, and physician retention. Using hospitalists allowed primary care physicians to focus on outpatient clinical practice. In many cases, hospitalists in small hospitals also wore multiple hats, providing care in emergency settings, outpatient departments, and clinics or physician offices.
Reasons to consider adding hospitalists
Incorporating hospitalists into the care team at a small hospital decreases physician burnout. These physicians have also shown to improve care coordination and efficiency. This impact adds up to a shorter length of stay for patients, and the ability to treat even more of the patients who need healthcare services the most.