Hospitalists, a branch of internal medicine that has become one of healthcare’s fastest growing and most in-demand specialties, will at last be getting the recognition it deserves. Sort of.
But program isn't exactly board certification
A five-year pilot program to test a plan for recertifying internists as practitioners of hospital medicine—rather than general internal medicine—will be launched next year. The program, called Recognition of Focused Practice, will be used by hospitalists who are completing their American Board of Internal Medicine 10-year maintenance of certification requirements.
While news of “board certification” for hospitalists had spread rapidly through the hospital medicine community, some officials are saying “not exactly.”
“This is unique in that it’s not a new certification per se,” said Eric Holmboe, chief medical officer and senior vice president of the ABIM. “It’s some subtle terminology. It will say ‘maintenance of certification in internal medicine with a focused practice in hospital medicine.’ ”
Robert Wachter, professor and associate chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and coiner of the term “hospitalist” in 1996, broke the news on his blog under the headline “Board certification for hospitalists: It’s heeeere!”
“It not your father’s recertification—which meant taking a test every 10 years—and it includes practice improvement modules with you measuring the quality of your care and acting on it,” Wachter said in an interview. “To me, it is one of the final steps of legitimizing a field for those of us who were there in the very beginning and who had hopes and dreams for this idea.”
The 9,000-member Society of Hospital Medicine (founded in January 1997 as the National Association of Inpatient Physicians) reports that about 82% of hospitalists are trained in general internal medicine. According to Rusty Holman, the 2007-08 president of the society, there are about 30,000 practicing hospitalists in the U.S. Holman noted the significance of this board certification pathway.
“I think it’s a linchpin for hospital medicine in terms of establishing credibility and recognition within the healthcare environment,” said Holman, chief operating officer for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Cogent Healthcare, whose roster of about 350 physicians provides hospitalist services for facilities in 20 states. Cogent, he said, will be “encouraging and facilitating their inclusion in the pilot program.”
Jeff Wiese, the society’s president-elect, noted the recognition’s significance. Wiese is professor of medicine at Tulane University and chairman of the question-writing committee for the pilot program’s exam.
“It says this is as important to the delivery of healthcare in this country as the care delivered by a physician with an organ specialty would be,” Wiese said.
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