Now more than ever, a successful physician recruitment strategy for healthcare employers involves leveraging the nation's growing number of hospitalists. According to a variety of studies, hiring hospitalists can "reduce costs, shorten lengths of stays, and in some cases maintain or even enhance quality of care and patient satisfaction," explain the authors of a Staff Care white paper.
Yet, the specialty is only a couple of decades old; the term "hospitalist" was coined in 1996 to describe a new breed of physicians who had arisen to deliver in-hospital care. Twenty years later, the number of physicians "practicing as hospitalists now ranks fourth among all medical specialties, trailing only general internal medicine (110,000 physicians), family medicine (107,000) and pediatrics (55,000)," the authors note.
Because they focus not just on patient care but on the hospital experience, hospitalists can maximize efficiency in remarkable ways. Likening them "to orchestra conductors," the authors note that hospitalists "coordinate the interaction of patients, physician specialists, nonphysician clinicians, support staff, data, and protocols to (ideally) improve throughput, resource utilization and quality of care."
Given their obvious benefits to employers, then, as well as the industry's increasing level of reliability on them, it's worthwhile to take the time to understand the ins and outs hospitalist recruitment within the bigger picture of America's physician employment patterns — and how their utilization has become so essential to today's healthcare industry.
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Why Hospitalists Are Critical to Today's Physician Recruitment Strategies
As the white paper explains, the rapid rise of the hospitalist within today's healthcare workforce — as well as the growing preference for working hospital medicine roles among physicians — can be traced back to a number of important factors:
- Medicare’s diagnosis-related group (DRG) model of payment: Introduced in the early '80s and based on a "fixed sum for various services independent of patient length of stay in the hospital," this change in healthcare all but required the presence of in-house doctors with around-the-clock availability.
- The implementation of electronic medical/health records (EMR/EHR): Though not exactly beloved by many of today's working physicians, the EHR era made it possible for physicians to access the complete medical history of a patient upon their first meeting, thus phasing out age-old tendency for a patient to be tied to a single primary care physician.
- The opportunities (and lack of administrative burden) offered to physicians. A growing number of physicians, "particularly younger physicians" who value a "controllable lifestyle,” as well as a career that includes set hours and the reduction or elimination of inpatient duties, have embraced the hospitalist lifestyle (and are likely to continue to do so).
All this goes far in explaining the surge in hospitalist recruitment. But what does the likely continuation of this trend mean to America's healthcare employers?
For starters, hospitalist employment is an increasingly essential part of a well-rounded physician recruitment strategy, and is essential in enticing skilled physicians to join a healthcare team.
"It is extremely difficult in today’s market to recruit physicians to practice opportunities that do not feature a hospitalist program," the white paper authors point out. "Indeed, traditional internal medicine that includes inpatient work is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, search assignment" conducted by AMN Healthcare's physician recruitment teams. (Staff Care is a company of AMN Healthcare.)
As the white paper authors point out, the fact that locum tenens hospitalists have risen to become Staff Care's third-most requested locum specialty speaks to the increasing usefulness of these versatile physicians. It also speaks to the fact that more healthcare employers are seeing the benefits of recruiting locums hospitalists to help sustain continuity of care and operational efficiencies, not only during periods of staff shortages and/or sabbaticals, but as a year-round staffing strategy.
Staff Care specializes in not only providing locum tenens hospitalists, but also helping employers build an effective and robust physician employment strategy around them. If you'd like to discuss your physician recruitment strategy with a Staff Care specialist, we encourage you to contact us here, or submit a staffing request here.
The summary above is just the tip of the iceberg — for more details on the important of hospitalist recruitment and employment, we invite you to view or download the white paper here.
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