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Understanding the Rise and Roles of Hospitalists

July 5, 2017


No one ever wants to be in the hospital. But there are times when a hospital stay is needed. Apart from your primary care provider, do you know which providers play a key role in determining the quality of your hospital stay?

Hospitalists are doctors who specialize in caring for patients in the hospital, including transitioning patients back to their home or another care facility. This is a role developed in response to the increasing complexity and specialization of medical care. 

Hospitalists had just begun tiptoeing into a few hospitals in 1999, according to a 2014 article from the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals & Health Networks website, when the Institute of Medicine released its "To Err is Human" report, awakening the nation to the need for a safer health care system. 

In the 15 years since, the hospitalist movement and the quality movement have grown up together and, in some ways, have been mutually supportive. As the quality movement morphs into a focus on value — the quality of care divided by its cost — hospitalists have an inherent motivation to be engaged.

UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown is no exception and is moving to improve its hospitalist program.

In early June, Russell Adams, M.D, was named Chief Medical Officer, a role in which he is responsible for patient safety and overseeing programs and strategies designed to promote and improve quality, while reducing cost of care delivered. Hospital medical services and the oversight of hospitalists is a large part of his duties.

Dr. Adams is a part of a group of hospitalists who also spend time at UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital in Waterloo, working in coordination with the UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown hospitalized patients to ensure that a hospitalist is available 24/7 at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.

“It is very important to have hospitalists on-site at all times to help take care of our hospitalized patients,” said Dr. Russell Adams. “We work closely with staff at UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital in Waterloo to ensure that we always have physicians on staff at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.”

The move for 24/7 hospitalist care means UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown is making it a priority to provide good quality hospital care.

Your Hospital Stay

If your doctor requests the services of a hospitalist while you are in the hospital, Dr. Adams says the hospitalist team wants to make certain that not only you are treated well, but you are comfortable.

“We want to make sure that every patient’s hospital stay is pleasant while we help them recover, so they can return home as soon as possible.” Dr. Adams, a graduate of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, said. “Hospitalization can be a lot to handle for many patients, so we want to do the best job we can for them.”

While you are in the hospital, your hospitalist remains available for consultation and is kept informed of your admission, discharge and any change in your condition

After discharge from the hospital, you will be seen by your primary care or regular doctor.

Caring for Complex Illnesses

Hospitalists also have expertise in caring for complex patients and illnesses. The UnityPoint Health hospitalist team has specialized training to help deal with more difficult cases and is able to diagnose, treat and identify potential problems.

Your hospitalist will:

• Coordinate hospital care, including ordering diagnostic tests and establishing a treatment plan.

• Arrange for specialty care.

• Work with specialists for more coordinated, evidence-based compassionate care.

• Respond day or night to your needs and those of your family and nurses, resulting in fewer delays in care.

Constant Communication

When released from the hospital, your family doctor receives all of the medical records from your hospital stay. The hospitalist team then arranges for a follow-up appointment to ensure that the ongoing treatment plan continues, even after you’ve left the hospital. The hospitalist team may call you at home to ensue you understand your newly prescribed medications and any follow-up appointments. They’ll check to make sure your health continues to improve.

“The quality of care that a patient is provided is always going to be extremely important when considering someone’s hospital experience,” Adams said. “As hospitalists, we understand that.”

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