Hospitals are bombarded daily if not hourly with reports, strategies, technologies and other grand ideas on how to improve clinical quality and patient safety. In addition to the intellectual challenge of figuring out which ones really work, hospitals also face the financial challenge of deciding which ones they can afford.
Welcome to our sixth annual 100 Top Hospitals supplement in which we again attempt to answer that question for our readers. In past editions, we've looked at how top-performing hospitals differ from other hospitals on such variables as: patient-safety strategies, adoption of new medical technologies, specific clinical practices, nurse-staffing levels and executive characteristics. In this edition, we'll look at hospitals' use of hospitalists, the employed physicians who specialize in managing the care of hospitalized patients.
Modern Healthcare first reported on the use of hospitalists in a Feb. 3, 1997, cover story, back when the term "hospitalists" wasn't yet part of the healthcare nomenclature. Now, nearly 10 years later, everyone in healthcare knows what they are. But they don't necessarily know whether the use of such physicians to guide patients through episodes of inpatient care was and is just another passing healthcare fad or a sound strategy to improve care.
In this edition, former Modern Healthcare reporter and news editor Barbara Kirchheimer reports on exclusive research from Solucient -- the Evanston, Ill.-based healthcare information company that produces the annual 100 Top Hospitals rosters -- that suggests the answer is unclear.
On the positive side, Solucient found that top-performing hospitals tend to use hospitalists more than lesser-performing hospitals. The research also found links between use of hospitalists and shorter lengths of stay and better patient survival rates.
However, the research found little or no connection between the use of hospitalists on such key issues as patient safety, patient-complication rates and costs per discharge. The research poses the question: Are hospitalists worth it?
As Kirchheimer points out in her story, even hospitals acknowledge they're making a leap of faith that using hospitalists is a cost-effective way to improve patient care. You can contact Kirchheimer at [email protected]
Also in this edition is a report by Modern Healthcare reporter Cinda Becker on a separate piece of research examining the governing board practices of top-performing hospitals. Those results turned out be be equally surprising.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at 312-649-5439, or at [email protected] Thank you.