What is a hospitalist?

What is a hospitalist?

If your loved one gets admitted into the hospital, they may be disappointed that their primary care doctor is not the physician taking care of them. Instead, their care will be coordinated by a “hospitalist.” This is a doctor who specializes in caring for patients during a hospitalization.

Like most specialists, hospitalists have had many years of schooling (up to nine or ten). They have a medical degree and have completed a residency. They may even have gone on to a fellowship afterwards. The main difference is that they do not practice in an office in the community. They work only in the hospital.

Hospitalists are experts in handling acute illness. Unlike a primary care physician, hospitalists are part of the hospital’s staff. They can help your loved one recover faster and return home sooner because of their

  • 24-hour availability. Hospitalists can respond quickly to changes in your relative’s condition
  • knowledge of the hospital’s systems and procedures
  • more-frequent contact with family members during the course of the day
  • coordination of care with other professionals

Of course, the hospitalist won’t know your loved one’s personality or preferences. And they may not have access to your loved one’s detailed medical history. But the hospitalist’s job includes connecting with your relative’s regular doctors. And with electronic medical records, the hospitalist may be able to access the community doctors’ treatment notes.

You can help provide continuity by following these steps:

  • Discuss medications. Bring the drugs from home. Or provide a complete list of everything your relative takes. Don’t forget vitamins and over-the-counter drugs. And let the hospitalist know of any drug allergies or adverse reactions in the past.
  • Exchange contact information. Ask to meet the hospitalist. (There may be more than one assigned to your relative. Hospitalists work in shifts. But they are very sophisticated in their ability to transfer information to each other.) Explain that you will be handling your loved one’s care following discharge. Request to be contacted with updates during the stay. Also give the hospitalist the names and contact information of the community doctors regularly involved in your relative’s care.
  • Contact community doctors. Call your relative’s regular doctors (primary care physician and any pertinent specialists). Let them know your loved one is in the hospital. Give them the hospitalist’s contact information. Most important, make an appointment to see the primary care doctor a week or two after your loved one is discharged.