How Hospitalists Can Help Improve Healthcare

Population health management may have a secret weapon on the inpatient side.

At the Becker's Hospital Review 5th Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 16, three panelists — Mike Finley, MD, regional CMO of Christus St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas; Scott Nygaard, MD, CMO for physician services at Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Fla.; and Ron Greeno, MD, executive vice president of strategy and innovation at Cogent Healthcare — discussed how a robust hospitalist program can help hospitals wade through the waters of population health management.

Dr. Greeno said the three specialties within hospitalist programs — intensive care medicine, emergency medicine and internal hospital medicine — are all relatively new and are becoming the "home team" for hospitals. Value-based care and reimbursement in the hospital setting will depend heavily on how those specialties interact with and care for their patients. "When [hospitals] start taking financial risks, they are going to rely on [those specialties] very heavily to be successful," Dr. Greeno said.

Dr. Finely said Christus St. Michael has partnered with Cogent on its hospitalist program since it started eight years ago. Through innovative and collaborative projects — like 10 a.m. meetings with all hospitalist providers — Christus St. Michael has been able to keep readmissions and costs in line. "We would've lost a lot of money under value-based purchasing," Dr. Finley said. "We wouldn’t have made it without our hospitalists."

At Lee Memorial, one of the five largest public health systems in the country, Dr. Nygaard said his organization has no real competitors in acute-care services, although he admits that's like "owning 95 percent of the black-and-white TV market" today. However, several years ago, their Medicare length of stay was poor, patient satisfaction was low and the inpatient units received several complaints daily. Lee Memorial overhauled its hospitalist program around the patient because "we needed to improve our service and value to the community."

"Hope is not a strategy," Dr. Nygaard said. "If we want a different result, we have to enforce change."

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