Practice Management

Hospital medicine around the world


Defining the fee schedule

In South Korea, a hospitalist model has emerged since 2015 in response to the insufficient number of hospital-based physicians needed to cover all admitted patients and to address related issues of patient safety, health care quality, and limitations on total hours per week medical residents are allowed to work.

South Korea in 1989 adopted a universal National Health Insurance System (NHIS), which took 12 years to implement. But inadequate coverage for medical work in the hospital has deterred physicians from choosing to work there. South Korea had longer lengths of hospital stay, fewer practicing physicians per 1,000 patients, and a much higher number of hospital patients per practicing physician than other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to a new study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine detailing hospitalist development in South Korea.3

A council representing leading medical associations was formed to develop a South Korean hospitalist system and charged by the Ministry of Health with designing an official proposal for implementing it. A pilot study focused on quality and on defining a fee schedule for hospital work was tested in four hospitals, and then a second phase in 31 of South Korea’s 344 general hospitals tested the proposed fee schedule, said Wonjeong Chae, MPH, the first named author on the study, based in the Department of Public Health in the College of Medicine at Yonsei University in Seoul. “But we’re still working on making the fee schedule better,” she said.

Ms. Chae estimates that there are about 250 working hospitalists in South Korea today, which leaves a lot of gaps in practice. “We did learn from America, but we have a different system, so the American concept had to be adapted. Hospital medicine is still growing in Korea despite the impact of the pandemic. We are at the beginning stages of development, but we expect it will grow more with government support.”

In Brazil, a handful of hospital medicine pioneers such as Guilherme Barcellos, MD, SFHM, in Porto Alegre have tried to grow the hospitalist model, networking with colleagues across Latin America through the Pan American Society of Hospitalists and the Brazilian chapter of SHM.

Individual hospitals have developed hospitalist programs, but there is no national model to lead the way. Frequent turnover for the Minister of Health position has made it harder to develop consistent national policy, and the country is largely still in the early stages of developing hospital medicine, depending on isolated initiatives, as Dr. Barcellos described it in a November 2015 article in The Hospitalist.4 Growth is slow but continuing, with new programs such as the one led by Reginaldo Filho, MD at Hospital São Vicente in Curitiba standing out in the confrontation against COVID-19, Dr. Barcellos said.

What can we learn from others?

India-born, U.S.-trained hospitalist Anand Kartha, MD, MS, SFHM, currently heads the Hospital Medicine Program at Hamad General Hospital in Doha, Qatar. He moved from Boston to this small nation on the Arabian Peninsula in 2014. Under the leadership of the hospital’s Department of Medicine, this program was developed to address difficulties such as scheduling, transitions of care, and networking with home care and other providers – the same issues seen in hospitals around the world.

Hospital São Vicente, Curitiba

Dr. Reginaldo Filho, (left) leads the hospitalist team at Hospital São Vicente in Curitiba, Brazil.

These are not novel problems, Dr. Kartha said, but all of them have a common solution in evidence-based practice. “As hospitalists, our key is to collaborate with everyone in the hospital, using the multidisciplinary approach that is a unique feature of hospital medicine.”

The model has continued to spread across hospitals in Qatar, including academic and community programs. “We now have a full-fledged academic hospitalist system, which collaborates with community hospitals and community programs including a women’s hospital and an oncologic hospital,” he said. “Now the focus is on expanding resource capacity and the internal pipeline for hospitalists. I am getting graduates from Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar.” Another key collaborator has been the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, helping to develop best practices in Qatar and sponsoring the annual Middle East Forum on Quality and Safety in Health Care.

The residency training program at Hamad General is accredited by ACGME, with the same expected competencies as in the U.S. “We don’t use the term ‘hospitalist,’ ” Dr. Kartha said. “It’s better to focus on the model of care – which clearly was American. That model has encountered some resistance in some countries – on many of the same grounds U.S. hospitalists faced 20 years ago. You have to be sensitive to local culture. For hospitalists to succeed internationally, they have to possess a high degree of cultural intelligence.” There’s no shortage of issues such as language barriers, he said. “But that’s no different than at Boston Medical Center.”

SHM’s Middle East Chapter was off to a great start and then was slowed down by regional politics and COVID-19, but is looking forward to a great reboot in 2021, Dr. Kartha said. The pandemic also has been an opportunity to show how hospital medicine is the backbone of the hospital’s ability to respond, although of course many other professionals also pitched in.

Other countries around the world have learned a lot from the American model of hospital medicine. But sources for this article wonder if U.S. hospitalists, in turn, could learn from their adaptations and innovations.

“We can all learn better how to practice our field of medicine in the hospital with less resource utilization,” Dr. Vidyarthi concluded. “So many innovations are happening around us. If we open our eyes to our global colleagues and infuse some of their ideas, it could be wonderful for hospital professionals in the United States.”


1. Kisuule F, Howell E. Hospital medicine beyond the United States. Int J Gen Med. 2018;11:65-71. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S151275.

2. Stosic J et al. The acute physician: The future of acute hospital care in the UK. Clin Med (Lond). 2010 Apr; 10(2):145-7. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.10-2-145.

3. Yan Y et al. Adoption of Hospitalist Care in Asia: Experiences From Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. J Hosp Med. Published Online First 2021 June 11. doi: 10.12788/jhm.3621.

4. Beresford L. Hospital medicine flourishing around the world. The Hospitalist. Nov 2015.


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