Palliative care and patient flow
Dr. Singh also described how hospitalists played an important role in palliative care for COVID patients. The hospital medicine team offered hospitalist palliative care services, which included COVIDtalk, a course on communicating about end of life, which helped to expand the pool of palliative care providers. Those trained were taught that these difficult conversations had to be honest and clear, with the goals of care addressed very early in the admission, should a patient decompensate soon after arrival.
A palliative “rapid response team” included a virtual hospitalist, a palliative care nurse practitioner, and a virtual psychiatrist – a team available 24 hours a day to have longer conversations so that clinicians could better tend to their patients when the in-person palliative care service was stretched thin, or at off hours like the middle of the night.
These innovations not only helped serve patients and families better, but also gave hospitalists training and experience in palliative care.
At Roper Hospital, Dr. Stein explained how hospitalists helped improve management of COVID patient flow. Depending on the time of day and the staffing on duty, there could be considerable confusion about where patients should go after the ED, or the COVID progressive unit, or the floor.
Hospitalists helped develop hospitalwide algorithms for escalating and deescalating acuity, Dr. Stein said, providing a “shared mental model for where a patient should go.”
“There are many ways hospitalists can and did rise to meet the unique demands of COVID,” Dr. Singh said, “whether it was innovating a new unit or service or work flow or leading a multidisciplinary team to extend or support other services that may have been strained.”