How hospitals can lose money by relying on hospitalists

Are hospitals victims of hospitalists’ success?

Interesting observation from cardiologist Dr. Wes, writing in Better Health. He notes that hospitalist services are so busy that they are limited in the number of patients they see. That’s similar to the caps many medicine programs have on their residents.

Who, then, takes care of the patient?

It won’t be the primary care doctor, who has divorced himself from inpatient care (besides, as a patient, would you want a doctor who hasn’t set foot in a hospital in years taking care of you?)

So, as Dr. Wes notes, the patients will languish in the emergency department, “even though the patient absolutely, positively does not need the ER.”

In many cases, hospitals are forced to hire more hospitalists to meet demand, or risk burning out the inpatient physicians they already have:

It appears hospitalist services are increasingly finding themselves overwhelmed with admissions and the promise of a reasonable lifestyle can be assured by either limiting the number of patients admitted to each hospitalist or hiring more of them. But new hires are becoming tougher to justify in this “do more with less” economic time in medicine. As a result, it appears existing hospitalists are quickly finding they’ve hit the peak speed of their clinical-care gerbil wheels.

And you can bet that this will affect any potential cost savings that comes from embracing the hospitalist movement.