As UCLA Health has expanded and opened primary and specialty care offices throughout Southern California, it has grown its hospital network and placed internists who specialize in treating hospitalized patients, called hospitalists, into 17 community hospitals and counting. Forster Chhean, MD, a hospitalist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and Veronica Ramirez, MD, a UCLA hospitalist at California Hospital Medical Center, discuss the advantages of hospitalist care.
What is a hospitalist?
“A hospitalist is an internal medicine physician who specializes in hospital medicine and is available to take care of medical issues in real time in the hospital setting as they arise,” Dr. Chhean says. “The hospitalist formulates the care plan and acts as the primary physician contact for the other doctors, nurses and ancillary staff providing care to hospitalized patients.”
How will a hospitalist know about my health history and communicate with my doctors?
“Because we’re an integrated health system, we have access to patients’ outpatient medical records, as well as maintaining close communication with our patients’ primary care doctors,” Dr. Ramirez says. “This means we can ensure continuity of care between the outpatient setting and the inpatient setting. Our patients feel more at ease knowing that the doctor taking care of them in the hospital also is connected to and in communication with their primary care doctor.”
How did this specialty develop?
The term hospitalist was coined in 1996. The specialty developed as primary care physicians, juggling larger patient loads, had difficulty keeping up with their patients in the hospital. Only available to see their patients early in the morning or in the evening, they missed the opportunity to interact with many of the hospital team members providing care, Dr. Ramirez explains. In addition, patients who are hospitalized today have more acute and complicated health situations. Hospitalists have more expertise to oversee treatment of these conditions in the hospital setting.
What are the advantages of being treated by a hospitalist?
Since they are based in the hospital, hospitalists are more available during the day to speak with nurses, follow up on tests and meet with patients and family members. They know the hospital’s policies and practices, as well as other hospital personnel. In addition to their connection with the patient’s other UCLA physicians, another advantage of having a UCLA hospitalist. “Hospital medicine affords us the time necessary to fully attend to individual patients, which can be a challenge in the outpatient setting,” Dr. Chhean says. “We can take however much time we feel is necessary with a patient or a family member to address their needs.”
How can I get care from a UCLA hospitalist?
UCLA patients who know in advance that they will be hospitalized at a hospital covered by a UCLA hospitalist can have their primary care physician arrange for them to receive care from a UCLA hospitalist. Those admitted from the Emergency Room can show a UCLA hospitalist card (available at primary care offices) or simply ask to see a UCLA Health provider upon admission.
For more information about the UCLA Hospitalist Program and to find locations near you, go to: uclahealth.org/hospitalists