Dr. Kimberly Zuzak, internist and medical director of Meritus Medical Center’s hospitalist program, discusses the critical role that hospitalist play in delivering patient-centered care, in a recent article by the Herald Mail.
Hospitalist are the “quarterback” of patient care. At Meritus, my team and I partner with nurses, pharmacists, social workers and care managers to provide effective, patient-centered care. But what is a hospitalist anyway and what’s their role caring for patients while in the hospital? Hospitalists are board-certified physicians and advanced-practice professionals who are trained in the treatment of illnesses and diseases, as well as post-surgical care in the hospital setting. Working around the clock, they are responsible for admitting, rounding on and discharging patients.
Hospitalists benefit patients in several ways:
• Specialized knowledge in managing very ill patients. From diabetes and cancer care, to congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hospitalists see and treat complex patients every day.
• Coordinated care. Hospitalists see patients only in the hospital setting, so they have strong relationships with specialists, hospital departments, nurses and supporting clinical staff, and can often expedite patient care. Hospitalists function as the “hub” for patient care in an often complex medical environment.
• Improved communications. Hospitalists can promptly respond to questions from patients, family members, nursing staff and other care providers because they are on-site. They also have an understanding of the patient’s condition on a day-to-day basis.
Hospitalists are involved in the inner workings of a hospital and help drive process-driven projects to achieve patient safety and quality goals. They lead teams dedicated to reducing patient readmissions, preventing hospital-acquired infections and improving the patient experience. They also act as champions to develop better care coordination from hospital to community for patients diagnosed with CHF and COPD. In response to patient feedback, we recently introduced a model of care for patients on one of the hospital’s medical-surgical units. Daily rounds with a provider, nurse, care manager and pharmacist increase the continuity of care for patients and allow patients and family members to understand and ask questions of a multidisciplinary care team.
Keeping close communications with a patient’s primary-care physician is important. A patient’s primary-care physician receives three faxes from a hospitalist: an alert that a provider’s patient has been admitted and why; a detailed discharge summary; and notification of the patient’s discharge and diagnoses. Hospitalists are trained to effectively communicate physician-to-physician handoffs throughout patients’ hospital stays — and most importantly, make sure the patients’ voices are heard throughout their stay.