As Hospitalist Profession Increases, So Do Concerns of Malpractice

A hospitalist is a doctor trained in caring for hospital patients; the profession is rather new but has been gaining popularity rapidly. Over the past decade, the amount of hospitalists rose from just 7,000 to about 30,000.

The specialty was developed to improve patient care and increase efficiencies. However, since information has to be transferred between a patient’s primary physician and the hospitalist, there can frequently be miscommunication and resulting medical errors and medical malpractice.

The Role of the Hospitalist

Hospitalists are physicians trained in the same manner as other doctors, attending medical school and completing residency before beginning their profession. A majority of hospitalists are internal medicine physicians who are board certified.

Hospitalists almost exclusively work within the hospital. This allows them to be more familiar with hospital systems and more available to hospital patients.

Hospitalists are expected to streamline information from every specialist a patient sees while increasing hospital profitability by efficiently moving patients in and out of hospitals.

Implications of Growing Trend

Although hospital patients may appreciate hospitalists’ availability, there are also significant concerns about the profession. First and foremost, a patient is essentially transferred from their primary care doctor, who knows their medical history and is familiar with their condition and medications, to an unknown hospitalist. Patient transfers are notorious for increasing the chance of medical errors.

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found Medicare patients cared for by hospitalists were discharged sooner than those who were cared for by their primary care doctor, but also more frequently readmitted. This likely stems from the pressure placed on hospitalists to get more beds open to increase hospital profitability.

Hospitalists are also often expected to handle increased patient loads, sometimes 18-25 per shift. Studies have shown that hospitalists interacting with 14 or more patients over a shift have a higher probability of overlooking vital information and neglecting communications with primary care physicians.

What if a Negligent Hospitalist Causes You Injury?

If you have suffered injuries as the result of the actions of a hospitalist consider contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you seek the compensation you deserve.