What kind of physician is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a physician who only cares for hospitalized patients. Hospitalists often have medical residency training in general internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology or oncology. Many hospitalists are also board-certified in hospital medicine.

Hospitalists are experts in many of the conditions that bring people to the hospital since they treat these conditions over and over.

Hospitalists are also experts at understanding hospital protocols and often have long-term working relationships with the specialists, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and others who work on a hospital’s inpatient units. These professional relationships and partnerships can help facilitate and improve care coordination for patients when they are in the hospital.

What is the difference between a primary care provider and a hospitalist?

A primary care provider conducts patient check-ups and exams for other health conditions in a clinic. The primary care provider often focuses on preventive care and will refer a patient to a specialist if the patient needs specialized treatment for certain medical conditions. For example, someone who has cancer would see an oncologist for cancer treatment. A primary care provider will often build a long-term provider-patient relationship, often over the course of many years. A hospitalist only works in the hospital and may only see a patient a few times, depending on how long the patient is hospitalized.

What kind of value does a hospitalist provide to patients?

The U.S. population is living longer. As people age, they often require more hospital care. Many hospitalized patients are also severely ill, requiring more extensive care that requires knowledge of several kinds of medical conditions. For example, a hospitalized patient with cancer may also have pneumonia and renal issues. The hospitalist would be the expert at treating and managing the pneumonia and renal condition while an oncologist would be the expert at treating the cancer.

A hospitalist can also respond more quickly to a patient’s tests or changing conditions and is often able to make more efficient and timely decisions about a patient’s care. For example, if a patient’s condition changes in the middle of the night, a hospitalist is available to address and treat the condition. The hospitalist is also ready to work with hospital staff, the patient and the patient’s loved ones and caregivers to assess the patient’s condition, recommend treatment, order tests and prescribe medications at any time of the day or night.

Multiple studies since the 1990s have shown that the use of hospitalists improves the speed at which patients get appropriate care, reduces the time that patients spend in the hospital and increases patients’ overall satisfaction with their care and experience during a hospital stay.

Will my primary care or internal medicine provider know about my hospital care?

The hospitalist will communicate with your clinic-based providers about your hospital care and will work with them on the follow-up care you will need after you leave the hospital.

Who will I see after I leave the hospital?

Hospitalists often get to know their hospitalized patients well. But they do not continue to care for their patients after they are discharged.

Once you leave the hospital, you will need to make appointments to see your clinic-based primary care provider or specialist for care.

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