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Supporting In-Hospital Patients of Primary Care Physicians

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"The word 'Hospitalist'may have been first coined in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article," explains Erik DeLue, MD, director of Hospitalist Medicine at Virtua Memorial. "But today, hospitalists are the fastest growing medical specialty. I see my role as a quarterback for patients - someone who directs all aspects of a person's inpatient care."

The exigencies of managed care helped give rise to the need for hospitalists. The demand that primary care physicians see an increased number of in-office patients meant that doctors had less time to manage their in-hospital caseload. The advent of hospitalist medicine has allowed primary care physicians to dedicate themselves to an increasingly complex outpatient population with the knowledge that when their patients are admitted to the hospital, they will receive comprehensive, quality care.

Memorial's Hospitalist Program has now grown to include 13 full-time hospitalist- physicians. Because of their 24/7 presence, hospitalists facilitate expedient movement of patients through the emergency room and rapidly commence a treatment regimen. "Patients are seen right away once we are asked to evaluate them by an ER physician.We promptly order tests and initiate admission protocols, and we discuss care with the families as well as contact subspecialists as needed," emphasizes Dr. DeLue.

To create strong communication conduits, Virtua Memorial's hospitalist group has in-house phones in addition to pagers, and a system is in place to fax history and physicals and discharge summaries to all primary physicians within 48 hours.

A 2002 JAMA data review which synthesized data from 19 published studies on hospitalists concludes that generally, the promise of the hospitalist model has been upheld, as demonstrated by impressive and consistent cost savings associated with no decrease in quality.

This Virtua Physician article was last updated: August 25, 2008