Hospitalists Provide Care to Patients in a Hospital Setting

Author: John Ortega

Hospitalists might lack the name recognition of physicians such as cardiologists, psychiatrists, radiologists, or pediatricians. But their importance in the medical profession in the United States has increased dramatically since the term was coined by doctors Robert Wachter, M.D. and Lee Goldman, M.D. of the University of California San Francisco in 1996.

When people were admitted to the hospital back then, their primary care physician would usually be called in to treat them. It was an inefficient set-up for many reasons, including the fact that primary care doctors often had to drop what they were doing in their office practice so they could attend to their hospitalized patients.

"Physicians Wachter and Goldman envisioned a new type of doctor who specialized in the care of patients in hospitals."

When they proposed the idea of a hospitalist in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, it marked the launch of a new field of medicine.

As of last year, there were more than 60,000 hospitalists in the United States. Nearly 80 percent of them specialized in internal medicine and another 20 percent had an extensive background in family medicine. On a typical day at McLaren Greater Lansing, six hospitalists will be on call, often supervising a group of four to five mid-level providers – such as a nurse practitioners – and four to five residents.

“A lot of patients may have a specific primary physician but they see me when they are sick in the hospital,” said Amit Ghose, M.D., who is a hospitalist at McLaren Greater Lansing. “When I have finished providing care for them, I will contact their primary care physician, let them know their patient was here, what tests or procedures were performed, and that a follow-up visit should be scheduled with them.”

Ghose refers to himself as an extensivist because he has a practice where he cares for patients outside of the hospital. However, most hospitalists do not have a private office.

At McLaren Greater Lansing, there is a hospitalist office where physicians document the care they provide to patients. Other than that, they have dedicated floors where they conduct their rounds.

While acutely ill patients can be confident of receiving high-quality care from a hospitalist, their health care regimen should include regular visits to a primary care physician. For a list of primary care physicians at McLaren Greater Lansing accepting new patients, click here.