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The Hospitalist Program at St. Luke's Hospital - Continued

St. Luke's Hospital offers a hospitalist program with its central tenet focused on communication. St. Luke's program has gone to great lengths to establish an infrastructure, which alleviates communication barriers and emphasizes partnership with Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) to support their needs and provide the best possible care for patients.

"The communication link between a PCP, a patient and a hospitalist is essential to maintain continuity and quality care," said Kathryn Higgins, RN, Nurse Director of St. Luke's Hospitalist Operations. "Members of St. Luke's hospitalist program put forth significant effort to ensure a smooth transition for patients from inpatient to outpatient status."

The process begins when a patient is seen in St. Luke's Emergency Department (ED). If the ED physician and the PCP decide to admit the patient to St. Luke's Hospital, the PCP may choose to use a hospitalist. Within 24 hours of admission, the PCP is sent an admission notification, which includes the patients' name, diagnosis and assigned hospitalist. St. Luke's does this to ensure each PCP is aware that their patient is in the hospital and knows how to contact the hospitalist.

"Often PCPs rotate call or are off on the weekend and may not be aware of an admission," said Higgins. "This written admission notification prevents any oversight by the covering physician."

A St. Luke's hospitalist then sees the patient and follows up with a phone call to the PCP to discuss the plan of care for the patient. Often PCPs have been following the patient for years, so they can provide more information about the patient's history, social background or relevant medical information. The hospitalist will call if the patient's status or plan of care changes or other issues arise.

At the time of discharge, each PCP receives a phone call and is sent a transcribed discharge summary usually within 24 to 48 hours of discharge. St. Luke's provides physicians complete information so when the patient returns to the PCPs office, all information regarding their hospitalization is available. To ensure hospitalists are meeting patient and PCP needs, surveys are sent to physicians at least twice a year.

Patient satisfaction surveys also are sent to each patient for input related to their care. This ensures the integrity of services and maintains open channels of communication between all care providers.

"To remain consistent with PCP practice patterns for referral, PCPs who refer frequently may specify which subspecialist they would like to use. This, again, shows the importance we place on the PCP guiding the patient's care. As a hospitalist program, our audience is not only our patients but our PCPs," said Higgins.

Often, the availability of a hospitalist is an overlooked benefit to the patient. Benefits of using a hospitalist include: