Hospitalists Must Learn to Adapt if They Want to Thrive in a Rapidly Changing Health Care Landscape

MAY 20, 2013
Kari Oakes, PA-C
“Marcus Welby isn’t coming back,” and the future of hospital medicine looks bright, said Robert M. Wachter, MD, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as he delivered closing remarks to the plenary session of the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for Hospital Medicine, held May 17-19 at the National Harbor, Fort Washington, MD. Wachter, who is credited with coining the term “hospitalist,” is a past president of the Society for Hospital Medicine and current chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Gleaning insights from his longstanding ties to the field and from other presentations at HM13, Wachter cited trends that point to the ongoing health of the profession, even in the face of increasing pressures to provide more and more care in the outpatient setting, as with ACOs, and even to manage more care in the home setting, as the movement toward the “activated patient” capitalizes on telehealth and mobile health advances.
Reminding the audience that hospitalist physicians are fundamentally generalists, Wachter expressed confidence that the “pluripotential nature of hospitalists means that we’ll morph into what’s needed.” Roles in an evolving health care landscape might include co-management, participating in systems improvement and cost reduction efforts, assisting with transitions between different levels of care, and even providing targeted care in skilled nursing facilities. Predicting that the hospitals that will succeed in the future will be robust institutions that are able to demonstrate good efficiency and outcomes, Wachter reminded the audience that a strong hospitalist group has become a necessary component for achieving these quality measures.

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