Hospitalist program established in Pa.

September 26, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some area family physicians will have more time to spend with patients in their offices because of a new program at Chambersburg Hospital that frees them from making hospital rounds.

In recent years, "family docs have decided to pull away from their hospital privileges to focus on outpatient care," said Dr. David Hoffmann, the medical director of Hospitalists of Franklin County, an affiliate of Summit Health. The hospitalist program was created to care for those physicians' patients during hospital stays from admission to discharge, he said.

The program begins Oct. 1 at the hospital with four full-time physicians, Hoffmann said. Three more doctors working part time will be added to the staff in February, he said.


Summit Health also owns Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital, but spokeswoman Sheran White said the program only is available at Chambersburg. Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown does not have a hospitalist program, spokeswoman Marina Shannon said.

"It was the primary-care doctors who wanted a hospitalist program and brought it to the administration's attention," said Hoffmann, who spent 10 years in family practice with Keystone Community Health Center.

The hospitalist program is coordinating with eight family practices in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Pa., and Greencastle, Pa., to handle the hospital care of patients, Hoffmann said. One reason for the program is the constraints on doctors who have to make time for office hours and hospital rounds.

"We've been struggling with whether we should continue to do inpatient medicine for a long time," said Dr. Paul Quesenberry of Cumberland Valley Family Physicians of Chambersburg. "It really carves into taking care of patients in our offices."

"We turn away new patients every day" because there is not enough time to see them, Quesenberry said. Part of that, he said, is due to a shortage of physicians in the area.

A hospitalist - a doctor who only provides inpatient care - can work with the family physician in developing and following a course of treatment and getting pertinent information to the doctor during and after a patient's stay, Hoffmann said.

In the United States, Hoffmann said, a discharge summary takes an average of seven days to get to the primary-care physician, but a patient's first follow-up visit occurs about three days after they leave the hospital. The hospitalists will be able to get the information to doctors when they need it, he said.

The hospitalists also can make more rounds with each patient and follow their cases more closely and that could lead to shorter hospital stays, he said.

Quesenberry said it also will benefit patients in that the hospitalists will be more current on new in-patient treatments and technologies.

"We're pressed to take on more and more things that are out of our area of expertise," he said.

"In medicine, you do what you do best" and the hospitalist program will allow him and other participating family doctors to concentrate on outpatient care, Quesenberry said.

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