To improve the pediatric data in the State of Hospital Medicine (SoHM) Report, the Practice Analysis Committee (PAC) developed a pediatric task force to recommend content specific to pediatric practice and garner support for survey participation. The pediatric hospital medicine (PHM) community responded with its usual enthusiasm, resulting in a threefold increase in PHM participation (99 groups), making the data from 2020 SoHM Report the most meaningful ever for pediatric practices.
However, data collection for the 2020 SoHM Report concluded in February, just before the face of medical practice and hospital care changed dramatically. A recent report at the virtual Pediatric Hospital Medicine meeting stated that pre–COVID-19 hospital operating margins had already taken a significant decline (from 5% to 2%-3%), putting pressure on pediatric programs in community settings that typically do not generate much revenue. After COVID-19, hospital revenues took an even greater downturn, affecting many hospital-based pediatric programs. While the future direction of many PHM programs remains unclear, the robust nature of the pediatric data in the 2020 SoHM Report defines where we were and where we once again hope to be. In addition, the PAC conducted a supplemental survey designed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the practice of hospital medicine. Here’s a quick review of PHM highlights from the 2020 SoHM Report, with preliminary findings from the supplemental survey.
Diversity of service and scope of practice: pediatric hospitalist programs continue to provide a wide variety of services beyond care on inpatient wards, with the most common being procedure performance (56.6%), care of healthy newborns (51.5%), and rapid response team (38.4%) coverage. In addition, most PHM programs have a role in comanagement of a wide variety of patient populations, with the greatest presence among the surgical specialties. Approximately 90% of programs report some role in the care of patients admitted to general surgery, orthopedic surgery, and other surgical subspecialties. The role for comanagement with medical specialties remains diverse, with PHM programs routinely having some role in caring for patients hospitalized for neurologic, gastroenterological, cardiac concerns, and others. With the recent decline in hospital revenues affecting PHM practices, one way to ensure program value is to continue to diversify. Based on data from the 2020 SoHM report, broadening of clinical coverage will not require a significant change in practice for most PHM programs.
PHM board certification: With the first certifying exam for PHM taking place just months before SoHM data collection, the survey sought to establish a baseline percentage of providers board certified in PHM. With 98 groups responding, an average of 26.4% of PHM practitioners per group were reported to be board certified. While no difference was seen based on academic status, practitioners in PHM programs employed by a hospital, health system, or integrated delivery system were much more likely to be board certified than those employed by a university or medical school (31% vs. 20%). Regional differences were noted as well, with the East region reporting a much higher median proportion of PHM-certified physicians. It will be interesting to watch the trend in board certification status evolve over the upcoming years.
Anticipated change of budgeted full-time equivalents in the next year/post–COVID-19 analysis: Of the PHM programs responding to the SoHM Survey, 46.5% predicted an increase in budgeted full-time equivalents in the next year, while only 5.1% anticipated a decrease. Expecting this to change in response to COVID-19, the supplemental survey sought to update this information. Of the 30 PHM respondents to the supplemental survey, 41% instituted a temporary hiring freeze because of COVID-19, while 8.3% instituted a hiring freeze felt likely to be permanent. As PHM programs gear up for the next viral season, we wait to see whether the impact of COVID-19 will continue to be reflected in the volume and variety of patients admitted. It is clear that PHM programs will need to remain nimble to stay ahead of the changing landscape of practice in the days ahead. View all data by obtaining access to the 2020 SoHM Report at hospitalmedicine.org/sohm.
Many thanks to pediatric task force members Jack Percelay, MD; Vivien Kon-Ea Sun, MD; Marcos Mestre, MD; Ann Allen, MD; Dimple Khona, MD; Jeff Grill, MD; and Michelle Marks, MD.
Dr. Gage is director of faculty development, pediatric hospital medicine, at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona, Phoenix.