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Hospitalists - Another Step to Improving our Continuum of Care

February 7, 2014

Quality, dependability and trust are three traits everyone wants when referring to medical needs. Ultimately, both doctors and patients want to make every visit and procedure as proficient and comfortable as possible. The problem is, in the changing landscape of the medical field, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve these goals.

The Brewton Medical Center and D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital have established a program aimed at helping meet the needs of both doctor and patient. It's called the hospitalist program. The hospitalist program is based on varying degrees of other programs currently in operation around the U.S. According to HospitalMedicine.org, "There are more than 30,000 hospitalists in 3,300 hospitals."

So how does it work? There is now a full-time physician on site at D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital every day. Drs.' Elizabeth Low and Deanah Maxwell will be rotating this position every other week. They will spend time visiting patients, checking charts and discussing options with patients. Dr. Wade Hampton Baggs has joined the Brewton Medical Center and will be the weekend hospitalist.

This program will begin by the hospitalists only making rounds on patients of Dr. Joe Terrell, Dr. Elizabeth Low, Dr. Isabella Villarreal and Dr. Deanah Maxwell. The hospitalist will also see any patients that are not under the care of a local physician. Patients of our other family practice doctors (Dr. Whittle, Dr. Vanlandingham, etc.) and our other physician specialist (e.g. surgeons, nephrologist, etc.); will continue to make rounds in the hospital to visit their respective patients. Upon discharge from the hospital, patients are referred back to their local physician's office for any follow-up visit and ongoing care.

Hospitalists are board-certified internists (internal medicine physicians) or family practice physicians who have undergone the same training as other internal medicine doctors including medical school, residency training and board certification examination. Hospitalists coordinate the care of patients' in the hospital. They also organize communication between different doctors caring for patients and serve as a point of contact concerning patients. "In our program, all the hospitalist physicians are part of the Brewton Medical Center, which makes coordination with the patients primary care physician at the Brewton Medical Center much easier and convenient", stated Tommy Shehan, Administrator for the Brewton Medical Center.

With the introduction of the hospitalist program, other doctors at the Brewton Medical Center participating in the program will not be asked to leave the clinic and go to the hospital to provide inpatient care. They can now remain in clinic and see patients and allow the hospitalists to check on admitted patients. If you have ever been in the waiting room when your doctor leaves, you can understand that this can take longer than desired. Hopefully, most of these types of events will be rare, but this is yet another advantage of the hospitalist program in that it has the potential to shorten wait times in the clinic. Of course the opposite holds true for the physician providing hospitalist care. During their hospitalist hours, the physician does not schedule patients to be seen in the clinic, which hopefully allows more physician time with the patients and their families during their inpatient hospital stay.

In addition to the positive aspects of the doctor staying in clinic or being in the hospital, the program is also very attractive to potential future local doctors. "One of the questions we get when recruiting is whether we have a hospitalist program," says Chris Griffin, Administrator for D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital, "Physicians want to work in a medical setting that allows for a better work-life balance. Our new program should help us as we continue our efforts with physician recruiting."

With upcoming residencies and college graduations this spring, there is an increase focus on physician recruiting. "We hope that our new program will allow us to attract some of the next generation of doctors," says Tommy Shehan, Administrator for Brewton Medical Center. "This program is designed to allow us to find a greater percentage of physicians who want to practice in Brewton."