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Hospitalists

History

There are many types of specialties in medicine. They run the gamut from pediatrics to gerontology, from wellness to oncology. A relatively new medical specialty is called hospital medicine. This specialty is dedicated to delivering comprehensive medical care to individuals who are hospitalized.

In 1996, Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman proposed the term “hospitalist” to describe a physician whose primary practice is the care of hospitalized patients. Traditionally, family practitioners and internists cared for their patients both on an outpatient and inpatient setting. They would do rounds in the morning at the hospital and then go to their practice after that.

However, some physicians found that interruptions throughout the day from the hospital often affected the ability to efficiently treat patients. That along with the paperwork involved for insurance, reimbursement, and pre-authorization created a need for another way of dealing with hospitalized patients.

While there are still physicians who care for patients in the traditional way both ambulatory and hospitalized, hospitalists are becoming more popular in hospitals. It should be noted that in 1996 when Wachter and Goldman coined the word hospitalist the role was not familiar in America. It was however, a more typical form of dealing with hospitalized patients in Great Britain and Canada.

By 1999 the National Association of Inpatient Physicians (NAIP) was formed. The organization, is an affiliate of the American College of Physicians-American Society of International Medicine (ACP-ASIM). According to the NAIP, there are at least 4,500 hospitalists nationally with the profession growing at a rapid pace. The NAIP also reports that today, the majority of adult general hospitals with a bed capacity of 200 or more have implemented the hospitalist system or are in the process of launching one.