What is a hospitalist?

What is a hospitalist?

Those who’ve been admitted to the hospital recently may have been treated by a hospitalist instead of their primary care physician, but who are these doctors?

What is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a physician who solely cares for patients in the hospital.

They are experts in treating acutely or chronically-ill patients, says Dr. Dionna Pendleton, medical director of the hospitalist program at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.

Hospitalists work closely with primary care providers to ensure a smooth transition of discharged patients.

“Primary care providers are routinely updated on admissions, discharges and any significant changes in the health status of their patients,” Dr. Pendleton says.

Why do hospitals use these doctors?

Hospitals recognize that primary care doctors are very busy.

They have to juggle their time between caring for patients and supervising the office, as well as visiting their patients in the hospital.

Hospitalist programs help primary care physicians keep their focus on their office practice.

According to the Society of Hospital Medicine, the number of U.S. hospitalists has quadrupled in the last decade – from 11,000 in 2003 to over 44,000 in 2014. Today, around 72 percent of hospitals use these specialists.

What are the benefits?

“Hospitalists typically spend all of their work day in the hospital,” says Dr. Pendleton. “This means they are available to patients around the clock.”

These doctors can order tests, prescribe medications and examine results in a timelier manner, giving patients the attention and optimal medical care they need.

This can lead to shorter hospital stays and improved patient satisfaction.

“Our goal is to provide comprehensive and quality patient care while also reducing the cost of health care for patients in the communities we serve,” Dr. Pendleton says.



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  1. Your doctor knows you. These doctor’s just meet you at a time you are under much stress. You undergo more stress when you try to fill them in on your background health. If you are even able to. At that time you can forget vital info. If they aren’t listening totally, they could easily err on the vital info. This is a seriously bad idea. This is being done to totally compartmentalize the healthcare scene, to save a few dollars, at the price of peoples lives. If we all just go to a flow chart, on line, we should be able to diagnose ourselves and find the right treatment, and circumvent the doctors totally. Is that what you think is best?!!!! Why are their people out there that are always trying to “fix” everything?! I would like to keep my doctor. I thought that was the promise. I guess not.

    • Judith A. Carlson March 31, 2015 at 1:18 pm · Reply

      The hospitalist program was in place long before the ACA, so it has nothing whatsoever to do with the promise that you could keep your doctor. In fact, one of my neighbors lost her primary physician because he decided to leave private practice and became a hospitalist – that was 9 years ago. Bottom line, though – you do keep your doctor. You just aren’t seen by your doctor while you’re in the hospital which, IMO, is disgraceful.

  2. Judith A. Carlson March 31, 2015 at 1:09 pm · Reply

    I’ve been a victim of the hospitalist program. Yes – victim! For a five-day hospital stay I had three different hospitalists, none of whom apparently bothered looking at my chart as they each asked the same questions. Even worse, the second one changed my medication to the one that put me into the hospital in the first place – with anaphylaxis! My primary had changed my inhaler because the first was giving me a bit of nausea (which was going away but which he didn’t like) and I ended up with an anaphylactic reaction to the replacement. It’s a good thing that both of the meds were inhalers so it was very easy for me to know that the nurse was bringing me the wrong one, yet she argued that that’s what I was supposed to be getting. I refused and asked her to call the pulmonologist/critical care specialist that my primary had called in. He got it straightened out and I received the correct inhaler. It’s a good thing that I was able to recognize that I was being given the wrong inhaler, but there’s no way I’ll ever believe that other patients aren’t given the wrong medications simply because the hospitalists don’t know the patients and don’t bother reading the charts because they’re overworked.

  3. If the area more epsisodes like Judith’s experience, these hospitals are in line to get sued bigtime….

  4. I was in an hospital for 5days and saw the hospitalist exactly one time.
    Even after giving my medication/ health history, no hospitalist bothered to look at it and make sure I was given my blood pressure medicine the first morning I was in the hospital.
    I actually did not see the hospitalitist until 4pm the day after I was admitted.
    This is wonder why it is a better thing to see a hospitalist vs your primary care physician.
    No one explained why certain blood tests would be done as there was no contact with the hospitalist except for the one visit. I did not feel as though my healthcare was important.

  5. Lynn Hutley

    Good patient care requires multiple individuals working within their specialties. I would feel comfortable seeing a physician who specializes in inpatient medicine just as I am comfortable seeing an emergency medicine physician when I visit the ER. Even though they don’t know my history the way my primary care does, they are always onsite in case there is a major issue and they will communicate with the primary care doctors.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.