By Dr. Sridhar Narra
What is a hospitalist and what is their role?
A hospitalist is a doctor who cares for patients in the hospital. WellMed hospitalists coordinate care for patients in the WellMed Network with the patient’s primary care doctor, so they get the right care at the right time. A doctor who works for the hospital may not provide this kind of coordinated care.
Why did you become a hospitalist?
I originally started providing care in 2002 in a traditional clinic setting. Around 2006, a community hospital approached me and several other doctors to join their hospitalist management program. I missed doing inpatient work quite a bit and decided to give it a chance. While working in the program, I discovered several gaps in care that I didn’t notice at first, especially in communication between the hospitalist, the patient and the patient’s primary care physician. Once I discovered these gaps, I began trying different ways of communicating with the outpatient doctors and gradually felt that practicing as a hospitalist is where I belong.
What is the advantage of having a hospitalist affiliated with a health care provider like WellMed?
Working as a hospitalist for WellMed allows us to spend more time with patients while they’re in our care. We’re able to communicate directly with the patient’s primary care physician. This gives us an advantage in the care we provide because we get the full story on the patient, from medical records and medications, to a background on the patient once they’re in our care.
Do you see better health outcomes working within the WellMed Care Model?
Yes, absolutely. WellMed allows us to spend more time with our patients. This allows us to really listen to them and engage them and their family or caregiver in their care. For example, a WellMed hospitalist might deal with 10 patients in a day compared to one who works for the hospital and sees 20 patients a day.
We’re able to help our patients not only when they’re in our care, but during discharge as well. It’s not uncommon for us to spend an hour discharging a patient, which is nearly unheard of anywhere else. This allows us to explain the disease process, get feedback from the patient, discuss their future care and medications, and arrange their first appointment out of the hospital with their primary care physician.
This does lead to lower readmission rates compared to the general population. You’d normally see about a 20 percent readmission rate, but with WellMed patients, we typically only see about 10 percent readmission rates.
What is some advice you’d share with patients to reduce their chances of readmission?
To reduce chances of readmissions, patients need to get very clear instructions during the discharge process. What brought you to the hospital in the first place put your health in jeopardy, and it’s important to learn everything you can about caring for yourself once you’re discharged. I recommend asking a family member or caregiver to listen in during discharge so they can take down the information as well.
Patients also need to follow up with their doctor immediately after discharge. They need to share their experience in the hospital so their primary care physician has the full story. This way, they can make sure the patient’s care is complete and that nothing is overlooked. All of this information then goes into the patient’s medical records. This makes everything much easier not only for the doctor, but for the patient as well.
Sridhar Narra, MD is a hospitalist for WellMed in Austin, Texas. He earned his medical degree at Kingston Jamaica Medical School in Jamaica, and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Michigan State University.