How are ObGyn Hospitalists Different from General ObGyns?

The only difference between ob.gyn. hospitalists and general ob.gyns. is work location, right? We all undergo the same residency training, pass the same boards to become board certified, and you have to be a general ob.gyn. to become a hospitalist after all. So, in one sense, there are no differences.

In addition to clinical skills, however, hospitalists do differ. As I outlined in my column “Ob.Gyn. Hospitalist Character Traits,” a hospitalist must be a seasoned professional and a team player, be willing to serve, inspire trust, be a good communicator, and be trained and incentivized to implement system-wide improvements.

Along with character traits, it is generally acknowledged that ob.gyn. hospitalists possess a specific set of core competencies. I began trying to formally define these during my first American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual clinical meeting (ACM) clinical seminar in 2010.

Dr. Bob Fagnant expanded on the initial ideas in a presentation at the second Ob.Gyn. Hospitalists’ special interest group meeting at the 2011 ACOG ACM in Washington, D.C. His presentation was well received, drew much interest from a large audience, and has initiated discussion that continues. The Society of Ob.Gyn. Hospitalists (SOGH) also has dedicated itself to defining the core competencies, but as this is such a new model of ob.gyn. practice, there is much yet to be debated, and discussion should be expected and encouraged.

As stated above, the ideal hospitalist should be a seasoned professional. ObGynHospitalistConsulting.com employment surveys from the past 2 years showed that only 7% of ob.gyn. hospitalists started hospitalist work within 5 years of completing their residency. I think all of us agree that it is very difficult for a new residency graduate to acquire the skills and experience to step in and perform as a hospitalist. Not to say that it’s impossible, just very difficult in light of most residency volumes combined with residency hour restrictions.

One idea that I have heard several academic centers beginning to discuss is that of a fellowship for ob.gyn. hospitalists. Advanced training in a fellowship could provide more experience for new graduates, but it would be especially helpful for experienced, board-certified ob.gyn. hospitalists to hone not only their clinical skills, but also learn the administrative, simulation teaching, team leadership, and information management skills to take existing hospitalist programs from good to great and to start new programs at the highest skill level.

This idea is in its infancy and faces obstacles. Most experienced ob.gyns. may be unwilling to leave their current private practice positions and return to the lifestyle, hours, and, especially, the payoff of a fellow. However, there may be creative solutions similar to executive MBA programs, such as online learning, reviewing curricula designed by the academic center, and periodically traveling to the center for weekends or more prolonged times for the hands-on clinical training and experience portion over a year or two. Introduction of a new additional program needs to be handled carefully because such a program for hospitalists cannot reduce or take away from the clinical training experience of current residents and maternal-fetal medicine fellows.

Like the development of the core competencies necessary for ob.gyn. hospitalists, it will be fascinating to watch the development of academic programs for ob.gyn. hospitalist fellows. It will be exciting to see the first graduates and even more exciting to see the first board-certified ob.gyn. hospitalist in a new subspecialty. Will an old hospitalist like me get grandfathered in if I can pass the new (yet to be determined) American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ board certification for ob.gyn. hospitalists?

We are lucky to have the SOGH in a position to hear discussion and debate and to advocate for commonly agreed-upon positions. There are so many questions to answer to define the difference between general ob.gyns. and hospitalist ob.gyns., but we are on the cusp of not an evolution in care for women in the hospital, but a revolution. The future is unknown, but the direction from the known is extremely positive. Not only is patient care becoming safer, but the system is becoming safer and more cost efficient while at the same time improving the lifestyle of the general ob.gyn. practitioner. This last sentence will be backed up by data and experience in the near future, I predict.

Originally published JANUARY 18, 2013 for clinicalpsychiatrynews.com

Leadership Role in Quality and Cost Control – Hospitalist Programs

When an ob.gyn. hospitalist program starts at a hospital, there is often a varying degree of distrust, resistance, and uncertainty about how hospitalists fit into the rhythm of the labor and delivery department.

In the initial stages, the ob.gyn. hospitalist may be relegated to the sidelines and just used in a limited capacity – for an emergency or for patients without a physician, for example.

In established programs, it can be the other end of the spectrum, as ob.gyn. hospitalists are looked to for oversight, leadership, and standardization, and provide these skills, often facilitating how the L&D department operates overall. They can evolve into the manager of labor and delivery rather than only providing coverage.

I was recently intrigued by an article in the New Yorker entitled, Big Med by Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher, in which he compares the operation of his local Cheesecake Factory restaurant to hospital medicine. He observes how, unlike in medicine, the Cheesecake Factory has figured out how to “deliver a range of services to millions of people at a reasonable cost and with a consistent level of quality.” Lamenting the current state of hospital care, Dr. Gawande rightly states: “Our costs are soaring, the service is typically mediocre, and the quality is unreliable.”

Dr. Gawande also points out that doctors are paid for services, not results. Unlike a restaurant, historically medicine is not service oriented. Medicine is becoming like a chain restaurant as large corporations transform it into a Southwest Airlines approach to health care – a high-quality, low-cost product.

We need to keep working toward what the Institute for Healthcare Improvement calls the Triple Aim which seeks to improve the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improve the health of populations; and reduce the per capita cost of health care.

We need to demonstrate our value by continuing to emphasize our commitment to safety and quality outcomes.

It is necessary to demonstrate that our commitment to safety and quality outcomes translates into real improvement as well as real patient satisfaction. This is going to require data collection as well as new skills and competencies on our part. Not only will we have to hone our clinical skills, but we will also have to step up as leaders to work with the other members of the health care team.

How do quality and cost control occur? Is it even possible to deliver high-quality yet low-cost hospital medicine? And who is actually in charge to help make this happen?

Change in the medical world does not happen quickly; however, the adoption of ob.gyn. hospitalists is one way hospitals can immediately start addressing these issues.

Ob.gyn. hospitalists can be used in a leadership role with responsibility for a patient’s overall care, medical costs, and results. The can coordinate who cares for the patient and how, help reduce costs in malpractice by being physically present in L&D to handle emergencies or other challenging situations, oversee collaboration on standardization to deliver consistency and best practice medicine, and ensure good patient outcomes through their presence, clinical skills, and experience.

The military uses the term C4 – command, control, coordination, and communication. Adapting this for the medical environment could look something like this:

 Oversight instead of command. This can be done by facilitating how the department runs, prioritizing and assigning assets, and being the diplomat and intermediary between hospital administration and L&D.

 Leadership instead of control. This is accomplished by instituting standardization, ensuring best practices, and facilitating policy integration to enable collaboration and consensus to achieve the best possible outcomes at the lowest cost.

 Coordination. The ob.gyn. hospitalist can coordinate between patients and their family physician, midwife, or obstetrician; coordinate between the private practitioner and the ob.gyn. hospitalist; and coordinate between nurses and physicians in L&D, and the patient during follow-up.

 Communication. The ob.gyn. hospitalist can work to ensure that everyone from the L&D floor to the hospital administrators knows what is going on all of the time.

It is fascinating to watch this process occur in real time and to be part of this transformation. There are so many different variations of how ob.gyn. hospitalists are used in different programs. However, I think this gradual shift from coverage only toward oversight, leadership, coordination, and communication is inevitable. Because this transformation makes common sense and because it leads to greater patient safety with better outcomes at the same time, it reduces stress and improves working lifestyles for the private ob.gyn. as well as family physicians, midwives, and the labor and delivery nurses.

Originally published OCTOBER 24, 2012 on ehospitalistnews.com and edermatologynews.com