Care for hospitalized patients at Sampson Regional Medical Center has already become more focused to the needs of the hospital, its patients and local physicians in recent years — now it is expanding.
In July 2007, SRMC and WakeMed Health and Hospitals partnered to create a new hospitalist program at SRMC, through which physicians specializing in all aspects of care would tend to patients at the hospital — from admission to discharge. The first form of program at Sampson Regional was developed, implemented and managed by WakeMed, which staffed physicians who were based at Clinton hospital.
However, last year, having established a standard of care and engendered community trust through the hospitalist program, Sampson Regional took the program under its own umbrella.
“SRMC originally contracted with Wake Med to provide hospitalist coverage, but in June 2010, the hospital made a decision to hire its own hospitalists,” said Sampson Regional CEO David Masterson. “One great advantage of hiring our own hospitalists is that we are able to recruit physicians to Sampson County and make them a part of our community. We’re also able to provide more consistent scheduling and coverage when we use our full time hospitalists, which means the doctors become more familiar with our patients, and our patients learn to know them.”
The hospital also has traveling physicians who work with the full time hospitalists to provide full coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The addition of a third full time doctor and a full time family nurse practitioner (FNP) to the hospitalist staff will provide continuing growth to a hospitalist staff that seeks to improve quality, efficiency and timeliness of care.
“We’re hoping it will improve patient flow,” Dr. Subodh Pal, director of SRMC’s hospitalist program, said of the extra staff. “The main goal is to provide quality care in a uniformed fashion at the hospital, the same standard of care, and make sure that each patient receives it in a timely fashion. Our main goal is to facilitate that quality of care, and this will also open up more beds. We need an extra set of hands to get things done in a timely fashion.”
Pal works alongside Dr. Brenda Baker as the two full-time hospitalists who will add another next week.
Joining the staff are Dr. Phillip Moye, who is currently going through orientation and will begin as a full time hospitalist next week, and Paula Ivey, FNP, who joined the hospitalist staff on June 28. Originally from Goldsboro, Moye previously worked at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, while Ivey also came to Sampson Regional by way of Wayne Memorial, along with independent work with Goshen Medical.
“Although SRMC started using hospitalists many years ago, it’s still a concept many patients are getting used to,” said Masterson. “Many patients are accustomed to their primary care provider taking care of them while they are in the hospital, and they like that because their doctor is someone very familiar with their medical history and care.”
He is quick to add that just because a hospitalist is in place does not mean a patient’s family doctor is not still a part of their care. Hospitalists notify primary care physicians of admissions to get necessary information about a patient’s medical history that may be helpful in coordinating their care at the hospital. They also notify patients’ physicians about important changes in conditions that could affect their care after hospitalization.
“We specialize in treating patients who are more acutely ill, and provide that high quality of care in conjunction with their primary care physician, whether it is a nurse practitioner or a physician,” said Pal. “We will notify them of care and discharge summaries and call their doctors with concerns. We have a very good working relationship with many of the providers. I think they all enjoy having the hospitalist program.”
Slowly, he said the foundation of trust between hospitalists and patients, as well as their primary care physicians, has grown stronger. While many are accustomed to direct care from their physicians, they have grown more open to a new style of care, Pal noted. Since the change in the hospitalist program last year, Pal said there is a familiarity with having a doctor who truly is local, rather than someone who commutes from Raleigh or further on a regular basis.
“We’ve gotten people used to the fact we have hospitalists,” said Pal. “We get a lot of people excited to see us. There’s a trust that’s been built in this community over the last four years. They also see we’re more timely.”
Masterson said the hospitalist program provides the benefit of continuous care. There are highly skilled internal medicine physicians who specialize in all aspects of a patient’s care, and they are able to dedicate their time solely to caring for hospitalized patients.
Pal, Baker and other doctors are always in contact with nurses in case something should arise with a patient. The patients who are there at that given moment are the hospitalists’ primary concern.
“We don’t have a practice to run back to, so this is what we do,” said Pal. “We’re here in the hospital to take care of patients. We’re very accessible to nurses and we’ll be there to assess the patients.”
“This means we have one or more hospitalists available at all times to round on patients and respond to codes. That avoids the traditional practice of pulling the physician from the Emergency Room to respond to inpatient emergencies, facilitating a more responsive emergency department turn-around time,” noted Masterson. “In turn, our hospitalist program provides much-needed coverage for physicians in private practice. Because our hospitalists are caring for hospitalized patients, family doctors are able to spend more time in their practice caring for sick patients or keeping scheduled appointments without delays and interruptions.”
Likewise, since hospitalists are in the hospital throughout the day, they are able to spend more time talking to patients and their family members about the patient’s illness and plan of care. “There is more time with families and questions from family members,” Pal said.
Communication about care is not just limited to that between the hospitalist, the patient and the family doctor. The hospitalist is also able to get into quick contact with other specialists as they are needed.
“Another benefit of the hospitalist program is continuity of care,” Masterson noted. “Our hospitalists work with other specialists, such as anesthesiologists, radiologists, and surgeons, as well as nurses, social workers, and nurse educators to assist in patient care. Because our hospitalists work a rotating schedule, patients may see more than one doctor while in the hospital, but they can be sure that all of the doctors involved in their care are thoroughly familiar with their medical condition and treatment plan. Our hospitalists work as a team to care for our patients.”
That team continues to strive to be better, and expansion of the program will help, Pal said.
“More experience provides more continuity of care. Our acuity and our quality of care — we’re lifting those at higher percentages over the course of the last four years,” said Pal. “Having more full-time doctors, we’re hoping that increases.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.