What a Hospitalist Can Do for You

This doctor's specialized skills can get you feeling better faster and home sooner.

If you’re admitted to a hospital, you’ll be cared for by a specialist physician known as a hospitalist. Though the specialty has been growing fast for more than 20 years, many patients and family members may not be familiar with what a hospitalist does.

Maninder “Dolly” Abraham, MD, has been a hospitalist for 18 years and was recently named Chief of Hospitalist Medicine at RWJBarnabas Health. Here, she explains what patients should know.Maninder Abraham, MD

What is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist is usually an internal medicine-trained physician who has undergone residency training and is dedicated to and skilled at inpatient care.

Whether a patient is admitted to the hospital from the Emergency Department or as part of planned admission, the hospitalist will manage that patient’s care during the time the patient is in the hospital.

How does the hospitalist manage a patient’s care?

The hospitalist will see the patient every day during the hospital stay, sometimes more than once. In addition to evaluating the patient, they will spend a large amount of time coordinating their care. This means making sure all consultants and specialists are on the same page, keeping the primary care physician in the loop, and communicating with nurses, social workers, case managers, and discharge planners, as well as the patient’s family.

Schedules are usually in blocks of days to ensure continuity of care for patients.

“A Hospitalist Is Like A Star Quarterback Who Knows How To Call The Plays And Navigate You Through The System To Get You Home As Quickly As Possible.”

Fast Facts About Hospitalists

1996

IT’S A RELATIVELY NEW FIELD

The term “hospitalist” was coined in 1996.

60,000

IT’S GROWING FAST

More than 60,000 physicians practice hospital medicine, up from just a few hundred 20 years ago.

30%/20%

THEY SAVE TIME AND MONEY

Studies show that hospitalists can reduce patient lengths of stay by up to 30 percent and reduce hospital costs by up to 20 percent.

March 4

NATIONAL HOSPITALIST DAY

is held on the first Thursday in March every year (this year, March 4).

Sources: Staffcare.com, Society of Hospital Medicine

Why doesn’t a patient’s “regular doctor” see him or her in the hospital?

As medicine has evolved, primary care doctors need to dedicate more time to see patients in an outpatient setting. In addition, as treatments have become more sophisticated, doctors are able to treat more patients on an outpatient basis.

As a result, patients who are admitted to the hospital these days tend to be those who are very sick. They require a lot of time and attention, which hospitalists are able to provide. Primary care providers entrust their patients to us. We become an extension of that primary care physician.

How does a hospitalist get up to speed on a patient’s history and condition?

There is a steep learning curve on day one. The primary care or referring physician sends over a patient’s file and has a phone conversation with the hospitalist. At the first encounter with the patient, the hospitalist will do a detailed history and physical exam on the patient, getting to know him or her as well as possible.

Electronic sharing of medical records has made this process much easier and faster. We have access to the patient’s history and to all the doctors involved. In addition, we have HIPAA- compliant, secure text messaging, so we can communicate with other physicians efficiently.

How does a hospitalist communicate with the patient’s family members?

Hospitalists spend a lot of time talking with patients and family members. We train new hospitalists on how to talk with them in layman’s terms and not use medical jargon.

We ask families to designate one person to be our contact, and we make every effort to communicate with the patient’s family every day.

What advantages does a hospitalist have when it comes to treating a patient?

Hospitalists have a broad knowledge of most illnesses and how to manage cases, including surgery patients, diabetes and cancer patients, and more.

We are specialists in inpatient care. We organize care throughout the hospital. We’re there to order tests, track the results, and order follow-up tests promptly. We can clear a patient for surgery and manage him or her post-operatively.

We’re also available to explain test results to patients and family members and respond to any medical crises. Then, at discharge time, we have all the tools needed for a smooth handoff to the next step of the healthcare plan.

A hospitalist is like a star quarterback who knows how to call the plays and navigate you through the system to get you home as quickly as possible.

Find a doctor at an RWJBarnabas Health facility or call (888) 724-7123 for assistance.