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Hospitalists: A Growing Trend in Healthcare

October 13th, 2017

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If you are suddenly hospitalized, will your primary care physician be there to manage your health? The answer to this question may surprise you. While many Americans expect that their primary doctor will be around to administer care should they be admitted to the hospital, this is not always the case. More and more doctors are outsourcing their hospital care duties to “hospitalists,” who are qualified and capable professionals, but may not be who you expect to see at your bedside.

A hospitalist, for those who don’t know, is just a doctor who has chosen to specialize in hospital care and spend all of his or her time caring for patients in hospitals. These doctors may be more qualified to handle your care than you think, given that they are more familiar with the hospital environment, but common bias may tell us that no one is more qualified to treat us in the hospital than our primary physician.

While we can assure you that there is no foul play or malpractice at work in this situation, we can tell you that it is becoming more common every day, and it is something that you may wish to be aware of when making choices about your healthcare. According to research from the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of hospitalists in practice has grown from only a few hundred 20 years ago to more than 50,000 today. Again, this practice is no longer uncommon – in fact, most of us are likely to be cared for by a hospitalist at some point in our lives, with hospitalists present at roughly 75% of operating hospitals today.

If any of this news is alarming to you, there are steps you can take to assure that you’re in control of your own healthcare. First, find out if your primary care physician works with hospitalists or handles patients herself in the event of hospitalization. If the answer you find is unnerving to you, perhaps seek to have a conversation with your doctor about it and assure that you will be in capable hands throughout hospital care. You can always make a change and find a physician you’re more comfortable with If you don’t like the answers you receive. And if you’re currently without a primary care physician and are looking for a new one, keep this in mind as you enter your search.

If dealing with a hospitalist is a deal-breaker for you, it’s better to know that information up front and make an informed decision about who oversees your care. This article from US News is a great reference for further reading if you’re interested in learning more about how to find the right doctor for you. While there is nothing wrong with the increasing trend of hospitalists in practice, it’s always best to know what to expect in case of a health emergency.