A new white paper from the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) is the specialty's first formal blueprint on best practices for running a hospital medicine group (HMG).
"The Key Principles and Characteristics of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group: An Assessment Guide for Hospitals and Hospitalists" report published this week in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, is the culmination of a two-year effort to give group leaders and hospital executives a self-assessment tool, says former SHM President John Nelson, MD, MHM, a practicing hospitalist and principal in Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants in Bellevue, Wash.
Dr. Nelson, one of the report's authors, says the 10 guiding principles and 47 individual characteristics are a launching point for group leaders, C-suite administrators, and others to discuss what ideals apply to their respective practices.
"It's like reading any other thing about how to get fit, how to eat a healthy diet, how to lead a good life," he adds. "It's pretty hard to rigidly pursue everything that an expert or well—considered document might recommend, but you tend to adapt it to your own circumstances and some things resonate."
Culled from more than 200 stakeholders, the report's 10 principles focus on:
Effective planning and management infrastructure;
HMG alignment with hospitals and/or health systems;
Consideration of key clinical issues;
Recruitment and retention;
Thoughtful and rational approach to clinical activities; and
A practice model that is patient- and family-centered, team-based, and that emphasizes effective communication and care coordination.
Dr. Nelson says it's important for group leaders and hospital executives not to negatively view their practice in light of the report. Because characteristics recommended by the paper won’t necessarily apply everywhere, he suggests instead that readers pick out a handful of principles that apply most specifically to them.
"Two or three might be the right number to zero in on, but those are likely to be different for different groups," he adds. "I don't think there's any way for this to be used in the same manner at each group."
Likewise, Patrick Cawley, MD, MHM, chief executive officer at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Medical Center in Charleston, S.C. and author of the paper, says it shouldn't be viewed as a scientific conclusion, but as an aspirational approach to improvement.
"We feel that hospital medicine can be better than it is today," says Dr. Cawley, a former SHM president, "by laying out a road map not only [for HMGs] but [also for] hospital medicine leaders and hospital leaders about the things they should concentrate on raises the bar for everybody."
Dr. Cawley says the report is a first step for physicians and executives looking to benchmark their practices. In the future, SHM could follow up with other assessment tools that help groups improve themselves further.
"There are leaders and hospitals trying to improve their group. They're looking for something to measure themselves against," he adds. "This is instantly available for them, and we think this will be self-fulfilling. If people aren't using it, we haven't done our job right."
Richard Quinn is a freelance author in New Jersey.
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