TREATMENT TRENDS: Hospitals Turn To ‘Hospitalists’
Today's Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the growing ranks of "hospitalists" -- physicians a "hospital has hired to look after its patients, or a doctor from a big medical group who spends most of his time in the hospital caring for many different doctors' patients." The number of hospitalists is growing significantly, encouraged in part by the growth of managed care. The National Association for Inpatient Physicians "estimates that 2,500 hospitalists are in practice, including 600 to 800 who started work just last year." University of California-San Francisco physician Robert Wachter, "who coined the term hospitalist in 1996," said that "[o]n some parts of the West Coast, virtually every hospital has hospitalists or is trying to hire some." The growth is prompting federal regulators to question the quality of care provided by hospitalists. John Eisenberg, the head of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, "said that while hospitalists are a clever idea, there is no good research yet showing they provide either better or cheaper care." He said his agency "will be funding such research." The medical community is not uniformly pleased with the trend. The Inquirer notes that some "primary care doctors are against the whole idea [of hospitalists], saying it interferes with continuity of care." The American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians "are opposed to making it mandatory for primary-care doctors to transfer their patients to hospitalists" (Burling, 2/26).
USA Today looks at how some hospitals are "experimenting with allowing relatives to be at their loved ones' sides in emergency rooms, especially if the patient is a child." Two large medical centers -- Dallas' Parkland Hospital and Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens -- are "experimenting with family presence" in the ER. In addition, the Emergency Nurses Association "has formally endorsed it and written an 84-page brochure on implementing the policy." Alfred Sacchetti, the associate director of emergency medicine at Camden, NJ's Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, said, "I think this is going to be a grassroots thing. It's going to spread gradually as people demand it and staffs accept it" (Findlay, 2/26).