Practice Management

The ever-evolving scope of hospitalists’ clinical services

More care ‘beyond the walls’ of the hospital


The 2018 State of Hospital Medicine (SoHM) Report provides indispensable data about the scope of clinical services routinely provided by adult and pediatric hospitalists. This year’s SoHM report reveals that a growing number of Hospital Medicine Groups (HMGs) serving adults are involved in roles beyond the inpatient medical wards, including various surgical comanagement programs, outpatient care, and post-acute care services.

Dr. Linda M. Kurian

Dr. Linda M. Kurian

The survey also compares services provided by academic and nonacademic HMGs, which remain markedly different in some areas. As the landscape of health care continues to evolve, hospitalists transform their scope of services to meet the needs of the institutions and communities they serve.

In the previous three SoHM reports, it was well established that more than 87% of adult hospital medicine groups play some role in comanaging surgical patients. In this year’s SoHM report, that role was further stratified to capture the various subspecialties represented, and to identify whether the hospitalists generally served as admitting/attending physician or consultant.

Hospitalists’ roles in comanagement are most prominent for care of orthopedic and general surgery patients, but more than 50% of surveyed HMGs reported being involved in comanagement in some capacity with neurosurgery, obstetrics, and cardiovascular surgery. Additionally, almost 95% of surveyed adult HMGs reported that they provided comanagement services for at least one other surgical specialty that was not listed in the survey.

The report also displays comanagement services provided to various medical subspecialties, including neurology, GI/liver, oncology, and more. Of the medical subspecialties represented, adult HMGs comanaged GI/liver (98.2%) and oncology (97.7%) services more often than others.

2018 SOHM: Roles beyond the inpatient medical wards

Interestingly, more HMGs are providing care for patients beyond the walls of the hospital. In the 2018 SoHM report, over 17% of surveyed HMG respondents reported providing care in an outpatient setting, representing an increase of 6.5 percentage points over 2016. Most strikingly, from 2016 to 2018, there was a 12 percentage point increase in adult HMGs reporting services provided to post-acute care facilities (from 13.1% to 24.8%).

These trends were most notable in the Midwest region where nearly 28% of HMGs provide patient care in an outpatient setting and up to 34% in post-acute care facilities. In part, this trend may result from the increased emphasis on improving transitions of care, by providing prehospital preoperative services, postdischarge follow-up encounters, or offering posthospitalization extensivist care.

Within the hospital itself, there remain striking differences in certain services provided by academic and nonacademic HMGs serving adults. Nonacademic HMGs are far more likely to cover patients in an ICU than their academic counterparts (72.0% vs. 34.3%). In contrast, academic hospitalist groups were significantly more inclined to perform procedures. However, the report also showed that there was an overall downtrend of percentage of HMGs that cover patients in an ICU or perform procedures.

As the scope of hospitalist services continues to change over time, should there be concern for scope creep? It depends on how one might view the change. As health care becomes ever more complex, high-functioning HMGs are needed to navigate it, both within and beyond the hospital. Some might consider scope evolution to be a reflection of hospitalists being recognized for their ability to provide high-quality, efficient, and comprehensive care. Hospital medicine groups will likely continue to evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing health care environment.

Dr. Kurian is chief of the academic division of hospital medicine at Northwell Health in New York. She is a member of the SHM Practice Analysis Committee.

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