A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the needs of hospitalized patients. However superb the care, hospitalization can be stressful physically and emotionally. Patients are bedridden and attached to an IV. They may be fatigued or have a depressed immune system. Elderly patients sometimes experience confusion when removed from familiar surroundings. That’s why, unlike specialists and surgeons who have outside practices, the hospitalists at Marin General Hospital practice exclusively on site.
A hospitalist oversees every aspect of the patient’s care plan, serves as the patient’s advocate, and sees the patient at least once an day. What’s more, unlike visiting specialists, hospitalists have an insider’s perspective on the hospital’s systems, function, and personnel.
Primary Care Physicians for Hospital Patients
Like primary care physicians, most hospitalists are trained in internal medicine. In fact, Marin Hospitalist Medical Group doctors communicate regularly with the key physicians who are already involved in their patients’ care. Hospitalists do their best to understand each patient as an individual, explain illness and test results, and respond to questions and concerns. A hospitalists responsibilities encompass:
- Coordinating the patient’s entire care team, including consulting physicians, therapists, and clinical nurse specialists.
- Acting as a liaison with the patient’s primary care physician and other relevant specialists. At admission and discharge, our hospitalists share information and aftercare instructions with their patients’ primary care physicians and any other relevant specialists
- Keeping the patient informed about their condition, tests, procedures, and medication. Our hospitalists visit their patients at least once a day or more, depending on the patient’s condition.
- Serving as the patient’s in-hospital advocate and addressing the patient’s questions and concerns
- Keeping a designated family member informed about the patient’s condition if the patient is unconscious or too ill to communicate
- Adjusting the patient’s treatment as necessary
- Planning for the patient’s discharge and preparing a detailed summary for the patient’s primary care doctor and other physicians, where appropriate, with any relevant follow-up care instructions.
Continuity of Care, 24/7
The Marin Hospitalist Medical Group practices exclusively at Marin General Hospital, and we provide the hospital with 24-hour coverage. Depending on when the patient was admitted, the length of the hospital stay and possible changes in the patient’s condition, a patient may see more than one hospitalist. When this happens, hospitalists provide each other with detailed summaries of the patient’s condition.
Communicating with the Patient’s Family
Depending on their condition, hospital patients may be unconscious, groggy, or simply asleep for long stretches of time. If patients are conscious and lucid upon admission, we ask them to designate a point person, usually a spouse or relative, who can be kept appraised of their condition. We ask this for three reasons:
- So family members are kept informed and able to ask questions and voice concerns.
- So the hospitalist has someone to call with updates about the patient, if necessary.
- So our hospitalists are not fielding questions from a variety of family members.
The hospitalists daily visit is the best time for families to ask questions and offer input.
Planning for Discharge
Our hospitalists start thinking about their patient’s discharge long before it happens. The hospitalist works closely with our case managers, who provide patients with discharge options and answer their questions in detail. Collaborating with other staff, the hospitalist reviews patient medications and notes any prescription changes that may have been made in the hospital. The hospitalist will make sure the patient’s primary care physician and any relevant specialists with a thorough summary of your hospital stay, including treatment, test results, medications, and discharge care plan.
Although our hospitalists cannot continue to care for patients once they have left the hospital, we are happy to answer any questions about the patient’s care plan that may come up post-discharge.