Hospitalists are specialists in the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their activities include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to inpatient care. The number of hospitalists continues to grow significantly across the nation; as a result, this specialty will care for increasing numbers of hospitalized underserved patients. Existing literature has demonstrated that hospitalists are associated with lower inpatient costs and shorter lengths of stay compared to general internists and family physicians, and such savings did not have a detrimental effect on rates of death or readmission. Importantly, hospitalists are associated with providing higher-quality inpatient care because of closer adherence to treatment guidelines and better postdischarge follow-up. A recent national study has demonstrated that hospitals with hospitalists were associated with better performance on quality indicators for AMI, pneumonia, and the composite domains of disease treatment, diagnosis, counseling, and prevention controlling for hospital characteristics such as size, location, ownership type, and staffing availability. These findings suggest that hospitalists, as specialists in inpatient hospital care, are important drivers of high-quality care. There are, however, no data reported on the performance of hospitalists compared to other providers relating to their care of different ethic groups.
Previous research using national quality measures has found substantial variability and room for improvement in the care of hospitalized patients across medical conditions. With the continued growth of the hospitalist inpatient care model, further research is needed to delineate the specific hospitalist model characteristics associated with improved quality and outcomes of care. The hospitalist model of inpatient care should be considered an essential component of quality improvement for hospitals seeking to improve inpatient care. This is especially true for public/municipal hospitals and smaller hospitals, which have been shown to be consistently associated with lower quality and which provide care for the disproportionate number of racial/ethnic minority patients.