obgyn hospitalists

The ABCs of OBGYN Hospitalists

OBGYN hospitalists are generally board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists who focus their practice on hospitalized women and generally do not have an outpatient office. Hospitals hire them for several reasons but the most important is for safety. Especially in obstetrics, the clinical situation can change so rapidly that unless a physician is actually in labor and delivery to respond on an emergency basis there can be a bad outcome for mother or baby or both.

Just like the rapid penetration of internal medicine hospitalists, OBGYN hospitalist programs are spreading. Although a few programs have been around for many years, in 2007 there were only approximately 15 in the United States, and currently there are over 244 with two to six new programs starting up monthly. It certainly is not standard of care yet but I’m predicting it will become standard of care within three to five years. Some people use the word Laborist, but a better term is OBGYN hospitalist for those programs in which there is responsibility not only of labor and delivery, but also of gynecologic emergencies in the main ED (Emergency Department). OB hospitalists only stay in labor and delivery and the private OBGYNs staff the main ED.

Financially speaking, almost all programs lose money. Depending on the volume, that loss can be between $1-$200,000 or up to 1 million dollars. Roughly, a program costs $1.5 million and the income it generates can bring in $500-$750,000 a year. Hospitals with 2000 deliveries or more have a lower amount of loss. It is important to look at a wider budget rather than simply profit or loss because:

  1. Bad outcomes lead to malpractice costs
  2. Hospitalists can increase the volume of high-risk pregnancies that can help to fill up the neonatal ICU, which can be a profit center for hospital
  3. Retention and recruitment of not only physicians but of the expensive-to-train labor and delivery nurses

Many hospitals help pay for the program by transforming their outpatient OB triage areas into OB emergency department (OB ED). This increases the facility fee for evaluation substantially.

Many hospitals are facing the same problems:

  1. OBGYNs do not want to take call
  2. There are unassigned patients
  3. There may be midwives and family practitioners doing deliveries without backup
  4. No one wants to accept the transfer of high-risk patients
  5. Patients wait a long time for evaluation
  6. Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists want to do an outpatient practice only and not come to the hospital
  7. No one wants to do vaginal births after cesarean section (VBACs)
  8. The cesarean section rate is too high

An OBGYN hospitalist can help with all of these issues, making the private practitioners happy by taking the call, caring for the unassigned and high-risk patients, consulting for the family practitioners and midwives, evaluating patients promptly, working collaboratively with the MFM specialist, encouraging VBAC by taking responsibility while the private practitioners stay in their office, and studies prove that having professional full-time OBGYN hospitalists reduces the C-section rate.

There are no great downsides other than the direct costs to the hospital. Initially the private practitioners are skeptical, but within a few months they become the program’s biggest fans. Patients are satisfied and studies prove this. Nurses are supported and empowered. It can become a very important competitive advantage for a hospital that has a nearby competing hospital.

 

The Impact of Hospitalists on Gynecologic Emergencies

Up to now, I have been commenting mainly on ob.gyn. hospitalists’ impact on labor and delivery, but our surveys show that the majority (64%) of ob.gyn. hospitalists also have responsibility for seeing gynecologic patients in the main emergency department as well as inpatient consultation.

Most gynecologic emergencies are as you would suspect: threatened miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and, to a lesser extent, torsion of benign tumors as well as the occasional malignancy, and the common vague abdominal pain syndromes. Ob.gyn. hospitalists provide the main emergency department with the type of service that they provide in labor and delivery (L&D) triage or the obstetric ED: immediate or at least rapid response, expert clinical care, and the ability to work with the team in the ED or with other team members such as surgeons in the case of major trauma involving either pregnancy or gynecologic organs. This rapid response results in increased patient satisfaction as well as a more efficient ED.

However, having an ob.gyn. hospitalist cover the ED comes at a cost, as it physically takes him or her away from covering potential emergencies in the L&D area. Some hospitals get around this problem by allowing the ob.gyn. hospitalist to only go to the ED when they’re unoccupied; or if they make a diagnosis requiring surgery, they will call the on-call gynecologic surgeon so that the ob.gyn. hospitalist is not in the operating room with a case just when they’re needed for a shoulder dystocia or prolapsed cord in L&D.

This compromise of allowing diagnosis but not surgical treatment is a good one because even though the main ED is frequently geographically separate from L&D, the ob.gyn. hospitalists can usually rapidly leave the main ED to respond, while they could not provide the same response if they were in the middle of a surgical case. Having a backup gynecologic surgeon on call also provides a mechanism for outpatient follow-up for a medically treated gynecologic emergency patient.

Well-run programs also have an obstetric physician on backup call for follow-up of unassigned outpatient obstetric patients who need to be seen after triage or obstetric ED visits. More importantly, these programs have a backup physician if the ob.gyn. hospitalist gets either too busy or too fatigued. However, our most recent ob.gyn. hospitalist.com employment survey shows that between 35% and 45% of programs do not have an adequate emergency backup system in place to cover the hospitalists (www.obgynhospitalist.com) [now obgynhospitalistconsulting.com].

Rapid and easily obtained gynecologic consultation also helps with improved patient care, diagnosis, treatment, and turnover of inpatient beds. With in-house ob.gyn. hospitalists, the days of internists, family practitioners, and traditional hospitalists having to wait until after office hours for a gynecologist to see an inpatient are over. Traditionally, that consultation would take place at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., and then additional ordered diagnostic imaging might not take place until the next day, adding unnecessary delays in diagnosis and causing longer hospital stays than necessary.

Gynecologic responsibilities add to the body of knowledge that ob.gyn. hospitalists need to be skilled at, especially with diagnosis and medical treatment. However, requiring hospitalists to provide gynecologic coverage also emphasizes the potential challenge of how to maintain superb gynecologic surgical technique. This is difficult with low volumes of surgical cases. Once again, this problem can be eliminated if there’s a gynecologic surgeon to do the work in the operating room. This is also an area that is of particular interest to the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists as they discuss and decide which skills and competencies hospitalists must possess and maintain.

Originally posted FEBRUARY 14, 2013 on ehospitalistnews.com

More Than Just a Job – My Job as an OBGYN Hospitalist

It’s bittersweet that this will be my last column, but I appreciate the opportunity that this news organization [ehospitalistnews.com] has given to me, and it’s been an honor to share my thoughts about the new ob.gyn. hospitalist model, how it is changing our profession, and the future that lies ahead.

This is an exciting time to be in this rapidly evolving field because this is a new way of delivering health care to women by utilizing board-certified ob.gyns. who are physically present in the hospital. Their presence has led to proven increases in patient safety, a demonstrable reduction in bad outcomes, as well as decreased malpractice costs.

Additionally, programs not only lead to increased lifestyle satisfaction for hospitalists, but contribute to reducing private ob.gyns.’ stress and conflict of needing to be in the office and the labor and delivery department.Although hospital administrators have to pay the considerable gap between the costs of these programs and the amount of billing provided to the hospital by the work the physician hospitalists perform, administrators also are very satisfied. This can be seen by the veritable explosion of new hospitalist programs across the United States. When I began my career as a hospitalist in 2007, I could only find 15 programs, and now there are 200 nationally.

If I speculate and try to imagine 3-5 years in the future, I think there will be ob.gyn. hospitalists in at least 75% of all hospitals delivering 2,000 or more babies per year. That means there will be at least 102 programs employing approximately 612 (6 × 102) hospitalists.

For those of you considering this opportunity, it is a chance to reduce your work hours by moving to hourly shifts instead of days in the office and nights on call. You can have a good salary while having a life outside of medicine as well. You can hone your clinical skills by concentrating on obstetrics and perhaps emergency gynecology cases as you learn to work in teams; implement systemwide improvement; and have a greater emphasis and potential impact on patient outcomes, satisfaction, and quality.

It is a profession and not just a job. It is one of which I’m proud and love to do. I am convinced that having ob.gyn. hospitalists makes it safer for women. It is an opportunity to get in at the ground floor and help influence our profession’s newest model of care that is changing women’s inpatient care in this country right now and for many years to come.

Originally posted JUNE 20, 2013 on ehospitalistnews.com