Case study: MO hospital assigns hospitalists to specific units

In the past, hospitalist physicians have been forced to wander all around the hospitals where they practice, from floor to floor and unit to unit. Increasingly, however, hospitals are coming to see this as an inefficient arrangement--with many moving to assign hospitalists to a single unit instead. This way, hospitalists can focus on a smaller group of patients rather than shuttling from place to place or answering pages from other areas of the hospital.

One hospital that recently decided to try this approach is SSM St. Mary's Health Center of Richmond Heights, MO. To test the new program, St. Mary's worked with IPC The Hospitalist Company to set up a pilot--a dedicated 20-bed hospitalist unit including five physicians and two nurse practitioners. St. Mary's is carefully studying how the program works, particularly how patient care is impacted. If things work well, the unit may be kept long-term, and possibly implemented at other SSM-St. Louis hospitals.

In other settings, some hospitals have found that assigning hospitalists to units avoids wasted travel across the hospital, gives physicians more time with patients, families and staff, and allows patients to begin treatments sooner. Typically, unit-based hospitalists also participate in rounds, making it easier for them to work with other members of the care team and share insights. However, other hospitals have found that this approach forced the emergency department to spread patients evenly across units, which has proved too difficult to sustain.

To learn more about these programs:
- read this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article

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