Hospitalists: We Are the Champions

From the Society of Hospital Medicine annual meeting, National Harbor, Md.

The Society of Hospital Medicine just wrapped up 3 days of meeting, in which pretty much every SHM officer who got in front of a podium proclaimed that hospitalists are #1 and rising with a bullet.  In case anyone missed the point, Dr. Jeff Wiese, the incoming SHM president, closed out his forward-looking speech by quoting directly from Queen’s nauseatingly triumphant “We Are the Champions.” The crowd was ushered out of the ballroom with the song blaring over the sound system.

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user Tiago Ribeiro

Do they really have so much to crow about? Well, yes, and no. In case you hadn’t noticed, hospital medicine is one of the, if not the, fastest growing medical specialties.  (For a definition of “hospitalist,” go here.) There are more than 30,000 hospitalists, according to SHM, up from less than 1,000 just 10 years ago. Dr. Scott Flanders, the current SHM president, said that in 2003, only 30% of hospitals had an established hospital medicine program. Now, almost 70% do.

It’s a young, energetic group. From what I could see, there wasn’t a lot of gray hair in the crowd of 2,500 attendees. They are savvy in the ways of politics, business, and social media. They took meetings at the White House and with staff members of key Senate committees during health reform. They aren’t talking about how much less Medicare is paying them or how they didn’t get what they wanted in that law.

Instead, from their perspective, hospitalists see themselves as the keepers of the keys to “bending the cost curve” in health care. They think they can treat people more efficiently and cost effectively in the hospital, and already have protocols in place to reduce readmissions (which Medicare is demanding).

SHM’s own blog coverage of its meeting noted that Dr. Larry Wellikson, the society’s CEO, described the field as “the rocketship moving upward almost to a limitless future.”

But how much of a future is there in treating inpatients if the oft-stated goal of health reform is to keep people out of the hospital? If Americans continue their slothful ways, it’s entirely possible hospitalists will have a wealth of ongoing business, at least for the current crop of physicians.

Where do you think hospital medicine is headed?

— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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1 Comment

Filed under health reform, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, IMNG, Practice Trends, Uncategorized

One response to “Hospitalists: We Are the Champions

  1. You can’t ignore the numbers, hospitalists are here to stay. I think they fill a necessary gap between patients and primary care providers. But the tricky part is ensuring that communication between the three parties stays fluid and clear.

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