Study of Hospitalists Raises Questions

In the 1990s, a new medical specialty emerged whose purpose was to help control the cost of hospital care and improve the outcome for hospital patients. “Hospitalists” are physicians who care only for inpatients; generally, they do not have a private patient practice. As noted in a recent report on NPR, the growing popularity of hospitalists does not appear to be reaping either the hoped for financial or health benefits.

The notion that hospitalist care is superior to that of a personal physician derives from the expertise a hospitalist develops because he or she practices solely within that setting. Dr. James Goodwin of the University of Texas, who studied the impact of hospitalist care among a large cohort of Medicare recipients, said these patients tended to be released sooner than those under the care of their personal physicians. He pegged the population of inpatients under hospitalist care at 30%-40%.

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