Working with a hospitalist
Kathryn Perkins, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.
Question: What is a hospitalist?
Answer: A hospitalist is a medical practitioner whose primary focus is to care for patients in the hospital setting. Hospitalists complete med school and usually specialize in internal medicine, family practice or pediatrics. They might be members of a medical practice, or they may cover for one or several physicians independently. Hospitalists may sometimes be hired to handle on-call services for your physician after hours or weekends and holidays. So you may have contact with them if you need assistance after hours.
Question: Why isn’t my regular physician coming to see me at the hospital?
Answer: Most of the medical care you receive is in your primary care physician’s office. Because the hospitalist is in the hospital all day, your doctor can spend more time in his office (which, consequently, often reduces the time you have to wait for an appointment). Has one of your doctor’s appointments ever been interrupted or cancelled because your doctor was called to the hospital to handle an acute question or medical emergency? Your primary care physician handles issues coming at him/her from many different directions, so the less time he is pulled away, the better he is able to concentrate on you when you are in his office.
The hospitalist has the ability to communicate with your regular physician by phone or electronically as often as is necessary. Think of the hospitalist as a consulting specialist in hospital care that assists your primary care provider to ensure to provide the best possible care when you are hospitalized.
When you are discharged from the hospital, the hospitalist makes efforts to communicate the details of your hospital stay with your primary provider. The hospital provides medical records that address the hospitalization, treatment needs, diet, medication changes and, if necessary, the need for further testing.
Question: What if I also see specialists?
Answer: When your medical needs call for specialty care, the hospitalist work closely with specialists you have already or, if needed, consults a specialist that is a member of the hospital’s medical staff. Again, because the hospitalist is at the hospital, the communication with you and your specialist is usually more timely and efficient. The specialist’s recommendations can be carried out with less delay.