The specially trained hospitalists at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) are physicians who have chosen hospital inpatient care as their vocation, specializing in the more acute, challenging and intensive health needs of hospitalized individuals.
For a full decade, SNMH has utilized skilled hospitalists, and for the past several years the hospital has partnered with Cogent Healthcare, the largest privately held hospital medicine and critical care company in the nation.
“Our first goal is to provide top quality care,” Anna Seiders, RN, MSN, president of the company’s western business unit, said. “We want patients to know that the only thing that matters is taking care of them and that they are being cared for by a team of specialists.”
Hospitalists remain in close contact with a patient’s family doctor, allowing for full collaboration on treatment.
With specialists at the hospital 24 hours, seven days a week, rounds made by personal physicians are now relatively obsolete.
In this way, hospitalists have improved the lives of local physicians in private practice by allowing them to focus on caring for patients’ everyday needs within their practice, while leaving the care of their hospitalized patients to doctors who specialize in that kind of care, according to Dr. Brian Evans, vice president of medical affairs.
“As an emergency physician, I am very happy to have hospitalists in house at all times of the day and night,” Evans declared. “This is particularly reassuring for critically ill patients who need immediate care.”
“As medicine has become more specialized, and the hospital environment more demanding and time consuming, hospitalist programs like ours are a natural solution,” Evans said.
“There is convincing evidence that hospitalist programs decrease the amount of time that patients stay in the hospital, reduce costs, and reduce readmissions,” he explained.
Some of these benefits result from the more highly coordinated care of the hospital-based doctors, who can improve communication among various hospital services and are on hand for immediate assessment of patient diagnostic test results.
“They use evidence-based practices to provide consistency to the patients, treating them as a team,” he said.
Dr. Evans said he has been impressed by the training and experience brought to the hospital by the Cogent Healthcare physicians.
Cogent manages over 1,200 physicians in over 90 hospitals in 26 states, according to Seiders. Five hospitalists work full time at SNMH, while an additional seven are part time or “travelers” who rotate through the hospital.
“Because Cogent is a large medical group, many of the physicians have experience in multiple hospitals and have brought that experience with them,” Evans explained. “It is always helpful to have new perspectives on current practice.”
The medical community has been very supportive of the Cogent hospitalists, Seiders said.
Hospitalist programs are growing rapidly in hospitals throughout the country, she said.
“It’s the fastest growing specialty out there,” she claimed.
Local patients have adapted well to the program, Evans said.
“When I first came to Sierra Nevada Memorial 14 years ago, patients expected their primary doctors to come see them in the hospital each day,” he recalled. “That has become more uncommon due to the dramatic changes in medicine over the years. Fundamentally patients want and deserve excellent and compassionate care when they are admitted to our hospital. Through our team approach, and by having in-house physicians available 24/7, that is exactly what they receive.”
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.