Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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November 13, 2012
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Healthy Tuesday: What is a hospitalist?

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) introduced hospitalists to its care team about a decade ago, and today “ they are a vital piece of our organization,” according Dr. Joseph Britton, vice president of medical affairs.

Hospitalists are physicians specializing in inpatient treatment, who direct the care of patients while they are in the hospital.

“It’s an essential program that benefits our patients, our hospital and the primary care physicians in the community when the time for hospital rounds is not realistic,” he explained. At the same time, he noted there are some primary care doctors who continue to prefer to manage their own patients in the hospital.

The hospital signed a new contract with inpatient care Hospitalist group (Cogent HMG) at the first of the year and has been pleased with results, Britton said. Cogent HMG is a hospitalist and critical care group that contracts with more than 120 hospitals nationwide.

“They have brought a lot of stability to our staffing,” Britton explained. “ The goal by the end of the year for the Hospitalists Group is to have six full-time hospitalists and one physicians’ assistant dedicated to our community and serving SNMH seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.” According to Healthcare Research and Analytics (HRA), there are about 30,000 hospitalists now practicing in the United States, who manage two-thirds of all hospital inpatient visits.

The specialty has grown in part because of the intense focus on efficient care needed in modern medicine, Britton said. By using inpatient specialists hospitals have generally reduced the average length of a patient’s stay, which translates into savings for hospitals, and are paid on the basis of a patient’s diagnosis rather than how long he or she remains as an inpatient.

“Hospitalists are unique because they understand how to get patients through the technology and the clinical and medical procedures required of modern hospital care. And they are up to date on current best practices,” Britton said. “Getting patients back home is one of the key goals of this program. We provide great care and get the patients home safely.”

Hospitalists also can admit patients who enter through the Emergency Department or don’t have a local physician, taking that burden off private practice physicians at night or on weekends. Britton said about two-thirds of the hospital’s medical admissions are handled by the Hospitalist Group.

Having hospitalists in-house also allows the doctors, hospital, nursing staff and support departments to work together on the quality and consistency to meet excellent standards, he noted.

SNMH is moving ahead with an electronic medical records system that allows simultaneous and remote viewing of diagnostic test results, along with the keeping of computerized patient files. Hospitalists are trained in using this sophisticated system for recording orders and documenting treatment, Britton said. The patient’s primary care physician can follow his or her inpatient treatment and see test results using this system.

Cogent HMG is proud to serve this community to improve the quality of care and reduce the need for patients to come back for the same illness. The Hospitalist Group is dedicated to making the patient experience excellent.

To learn more about the Hospitalist program at SNMH, call (530) 274-6761 or visit

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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The Union Updated Nov 20, 2012 12:13PM Published Nov 15, 2012 07:18AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.