The advantages to the hospitalist arrangement outweigh the disadvantages, according to Dr. Lowell Sensintaffar, a family physician in Shiloh.
Hospital patients cared for by hospitalists have shorter hospital stays, decreased healthcare costs and better outcomes, Sensintaffar said.
Problems can arise if there’s a lack of continuity between the primary-care physician, the hospitalist and the patient.
“Any good functioning hospitalist program,” Sensintaffar said, “ensures a good hand-off upon discharge ... good communication between a hospitalist and primary-care physician.
“Having that in-patient responsibility does place significant strain on physicians and can compromise a work-family-life balance,” Sensintaffar said. “I think it’s a good system. I’m very happy it.”
He appreciates the communications he has had with hospitalists in the area whether it’s a phone call or a message about a patient or the detailed, timely discharge summaries he receives. Sensintaffar can still check in on his patients by accessing their electronic medical records or making a social visit to the hospital.
Dr. Mounir Shenouda, an internist with Fairview Heights Medical Group, said he used to see patients at St. Elizabeth’s, Memorial and Barnes Jewish hospitals, but now all his patients admitted to the hospital are treated by hospitalists. Sometimes, he said, he wouldn’t see some of his patients until 10 p.m.
About five years ago, Shenouda said he started by allowing a few of his patients to be seen by hospitalists to “test the water. Then they did a fairly good job, so we started to send everybody to them,” he said. “We stopped completely going (to the hospital).”
Patients were hesitant at first, Shenouda said, as they wanted to see their familiar doctors. However, they were able to overcome that, he said, by keeping in touch with the hospitalist who was treating his patients.
“They’ve been doing a pretty decent job so far,” Shenouda said.
The hospitalist trend has allowed Shenouda and others to treat more patients during office hours.
I do care for all my own patients in the hospital. It makes my patients’ life and my own life a lot easier with the continuity (of care)...It’s more rewarding for both sides.
Dr. David Mitchell of The Country Doctor Ltd. in Shiloh
A handful of primary-care doctors in the metro-east continue to admit and treat patients at local hospitals.
One of those doctors, Dr. David Mitchell of The Country Doctor Ltd. in Shiloh, said he knows his patients the best. “They are almost like family,” he said.
Mitchell said his senior patients expect to see him at the hospital when they are patients.
“When they go to the hospital, they want to see a familiar face,” he said.
Mitchell admitted one of his patients to the new Memorial East Hospital in Shiloh on Wednesday, one day after the facility opened.
Like others doctors, Mitchell said there are pros and cons to the hospitalist trend.
One advantage is hospitalists do nothing but inpatient care, according to Mitchell. A disadvantage is patients don’t have continuity of care, he said.
“I do care for all my own patients in the hospital,” Mitchell said. “It makes my patients’ life and my own life a lot easier with the continuity (of care). ... It’s more rewarding for both sides.”
Patients who responded to a Belleville News-Democrat request expressed mixed reaction to their recent experiences with hospitalists.
O’Fallon resident Patricia Lowry, 60, said she was a patient at Memorial twice recently and didn’t care for the treatment she received from a hospitalist. She said the hospitalist never examined her or listened to her. Lowry said she was dissatisfied with the lack of hands-on care.
Kay McGrew of O’Fallon had a completely different experience when she was recently treated by a hospitalist at Memorial. “They are great,” McGrew said. “They are young. They are eager. They are very attentive.”
McGrew said her 83-year-old mother who lives in Belleville, was in the hospital 17 times last year and also received great care from hospitalists at Memorial. “They treated her very well,” she said.
They (hospitalists) are all really good. I had the best treatment. There was never a stone unturned. They were very thorough and explained everything to me from the beginning to the end. You can’t ask for better treatment.
O’Fallon resident Doris Whiteman
New Athens resident James Cook said he was recently treated at both hospitals and wasn’t pleased with the care he received from hospitalists.
“I didn’t like it at all,” the 71-year-old said. “They didn’t have access to my complete (medical) records. ... I did not like the fact that a complete stranger ... started doing my medical treatment without consultation with my doctor.”
Doris Whiteman, of O’Fallon, had nothing but praise for the hospitalists who treated her following knee surgery at Memorial.
“They are all really good,” she said. “I had the best treatment. There was never a stone unturned. They were very thorough and explained everything to me from the beginning to the end. You can’t ask for better treatment.”
George Fero, 67, of Lebanon, also had a good experience with his treatment by a hospitalist during his stay at Memorial in January.
“The hospitalists are very good,” he said. “They visited with me on a regular basis. I had great treatment.”