Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hospitalists’ quest to define their value---are there lessons from emergency medicine?

Through the years I’ve watched emergency medicine mature and grow from humble beginnings into a well established specialty. There are parallels and lessons there for the hospitalist movement. Emergency medicine is a specialty defined by location. Like hospital medicine today, emergency medicine once competed with a “traditional model” of care. Under the traditional model emergency rooms, lacking dedicated physician staffing, were covered by community physicians. When emergentologists entered the scene community physicians viewed it as an intrusion and many chose to continue seeing their own patients in the ER. Patients asked “where’s my doctor?” and often complained to administration. How attitudes have changed!

But there’s one parallel I don’t see. I don’t recall an obsession among emergency medicine doctors with convincing others of their “value”. The value of emergency medicine was self evident. The need was there and emergency medicine responded.

Self promotion is a distraction. Maybe the hospitalist movement should relax. If we concentrate on taking better and better care of hospitalized patients others will see our value.

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