A Practice Resolution


In the heart of the holiday season’s gluttony (and the challenges of staffing the holidays), we need something to get us excited for 2015. Let me suggest that you resolve to use “The Key Principles and Characteristics of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group: An Assessment Guide for Hospitals and Hospitalists” to trim those holiday pounds and make your hospitalist group (HMG) fitter than ever.1

When we published the “Key Principles and Characteristics” in the Journal of Hospital Medicine in February, we intended it to be “aspirational, helping to raise the bar for the specialty of hospital medicine.”1 The author group’s intent was to provide a framework for quality improvement at the HMG level. One can use the 10 principles and 47 characteristics as a basis for self-assessment within the cycle of quality improvement. I will provide an illustration of how a group might utilize the guide to improve its performance using an example and W. Edward Deming’s classic plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle.

Principle 6: The HMG supports care coordination across settings.

Characteristic 6.1: The HMG has systems in place to ensure effective and reliable communication with the patient’s primary care provider and/or other providers involved in the patient’s care in the nonacute care setting.


This phase involves identifying a goal, setting success metrics, and putting a plan into action.

Example: 90% of primary care providers (PCPs) will receive a discharge summary within 24 hours of discharge.


Here the key components of the plan are implemented.

Example: All referring PCPs’ preferred methods of communication and contact information are documented. The HMG has the ability to utilize such communication, e.g. electronic health record (EHR) e-mail or electronic fax. All hospitalists prepare a discharge summary in real time.


In this phase, outcomes are assessed for success and barriers.

Example: Although 97% of discharge summaries are transmitted according to the PCPs’ preferred communication, PCPs state that they received it only 78% of the time.


This is where the lessons learned throughout the process are integrated to adjust the methods, the goal, or the approach in general. Then the entire cycle is repeated.

Example: Even though most PCPs are on the same EHR system as the hospitalists, they don’t check their EHR e-mail (even though during the Plan phase they said they did). Their office staff uses electronic fax, so that will be the method of communication for the PCPs who do not check their EHR e-mail inbox.

In this example, the next time the PDSA cycle is completed, the new approach—using electronic fax for PCPs who don’t check their EHR e-mail while using e-mail for those who check it—will be employed, measured, and further improved in iterative cycles.

(Click for larger image)Table 1. The 10 Key Principles of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group1

(Click for larger image)Table 1. The 10 Key Principles of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group1

Gap Analysis

Another way you can use the “Key Principles and Characteristics” is to do a gap analysis of your HMG. You can assess the current state of your HMG against the “Key Principles and Characteristics,” which can be viewed as an ideal state. The gap between the current and the ideal state can be a roadmap to improvement for your HMG.

For an example of a large HMG’s gap analysis, see “TeamHealth Hospital Medicine Shares Performance Stats” in the August 2014 issue of The Hospitalist.

Strategic Planning

You may be thinking about taking a block of time to devote to your group’s strategic planning. The “Key Principles and Characteristics” is the ideal framework for such planning. You can use the document as a backdrop to your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, which forms the basis of your HMG strategic planning activities.

Keep Your Resolution

One of the best ways to maintain your new habit in the New Year is to let others know of your resolution. In the case of your “Key Principles and Characteristics” resolution, announce your plans at the next monthly meeting of your HMG, and find a way to involve other group members in the project. You might assign a single principle or characteristic to each group member, who is tasked with doing a QI project and reporting on the results at a future date. Or, group members can engage in a portion of a gap analysis or SWOT analysis.

No matter how you use the “Key Principles and Characteristics,” I hope they will guide your HMG to a happy, healthy, and effective 2015!

Dr. Whitcomb is chief medical officer of Remedy Partners. He is co-founder and past president of SHM. E-mail him at [email protected].


    1. Cawley P, Deitelzweig S, Flores L, et al. The key principles and characteristics of an effective hospital medicine group: an assessment guide for hospitals and hospitalists. J Hosp Med. 2014;9(2):123-128.

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