Implementing a Hospitalist Program in a Critical Access Hospital
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PURPOSE: The hospitalist model of inpatient care has rapidly expanded, but little is known about hospitalist care in critical access hospitals (CAHs). We aimed to determine the impact of a hospitalist model of care on staff satisfaction, patient volumes, patient satisfaction, length of stay, and care quality in a CAH. METHODS: We initiated a hybrid rotating hospitalist program in September 2008 at Winneshiek Medical Center (Decorah, Iowa), a 25-bed rural CAH. We reviewed patient volumes, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services core quality measures, acute length of stay, and staff satisfaction for primary care-hospitalist physicians and inpatient and clinic nurses. Patient volume and length of stay were compared with CAH data reported by the Iowa Hospital Association. FINDINGS: Patient volumes (acute, skilled, and observation) increased by 15% compared with a 17% decrease for statewide CAHs. Length of stay decreased from 2.88 to 2.75 days and remained lower than the average stay for Iowa CAHs (3.05 days). In the year after implementation, we observed no deterioration in core quality measures (range, 93%-100%) or patient satisfaction (86th percentile). Inpatient nurse satisfaction and primary care-hospitalist satisfaction improved. Early clinic nurse skepticism showed improved satisfaction at the 5-year review. CONCLUSIONS: Hospitalist care contributed to ongoing delivery of high-quality care and satisfactory patient experiences while supporting the mission of a CAH in rural Iowa. Implementation required careful consideration of its effects on the outpatient practice. Broader implementation of this model in CAHs may be warranted.
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