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Friday, November 17, 2017

The division of internist into hospitalist and "officist" and its demise.

It is the 20th  anniversary of the birth of the hospitalist.A recent article describes what was presented as a fairly widespread feeling among hospitalists  of "not getting no respect. ".

Some of the doctors interviewed  spoke of the hospitalist being a gopher for various attending physicians,a clerk and paper work finisher for numerous physicians and thought of more or less as a intern or junior resident and one who often seemed not worthy of a return phone call.The duties of the hospitalist when I was briefly  in the hospital last year with a pulmonary embolus seemed to fit that pattern. A very pleasant young physician mainly ushered the consulting cardiologist and pulmonary doc in and wrapped up the paper work as both of the consultants made the real decisions regarding testing and treatment. A colleague of mine who attended at that hospital said he made the decisions regarding patients he admitted while the hospitalist was useful in relieving him of paperwork. I realize that the above description does not apply to the situation of all hospitalists.

While the officist has become barely distinguishable from the FP or GP or even NP, the hospitalist , at least in some settings seems to have devolved into a junior  house officer while the real management of the critically ill fall to the cardiologist, the pulmonologist and the intensivist.

In the 1970s and 80s in our internal medicine  practice it was routine for GPs ( they were not FPs at the time) to  refer complicated,sick patients to our groups. ( It seemed to more often than not happen late on Friday afternoons. The physician to whom the referral was made would personally  care for the patient in the hospital  often aided by his  internist specialists partners.)

The sequence was that the patient or referring physician would call the physician in our group -if he was not on call one of the partners would  admit the patient to the hospital and attend to him calling on other partner subspecialists as the situation warranted. Now the patient calls ,for example after hours and the recorded message advises the patient to go to the ER. He is seen by the ER doctor who may admit the patient and the hospitalist would see the patient and consult as needed various specialists. The internist, assuming the patient had one, would often learn of the event when the patient was discharged back to the internist who had nothing to do with his treatment and may or may not have received a copy of the discharge summary.

In describing that archaic situation to young house staff  I would feel like describing the quaint rotary phone that I used when growing up in the 50s.


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