Conway Regional expanding hospitalist program

By RACHEL PARKER DICKERSON
http://www.thecabin.net

In light of a dawning shortage of physicians, Conway Regional Medical Center is working to expand its hospitalist program in hopes of benefitting doctors and patients.

Angie Huselton, director of physician services and business development for the hospital, said, “National journals have told us for several years that there will be a major physician shortage by 2020, but in central Arkansas, we have begun to see that already. What Conway Regional is doing to address that is we’ve launched a huge physician recruitment campaign.”

Fewer new doctors are going into family practice, and many physicians are retiring, she said. One of the hospital’s plans was to create a hospitalist program, which would help as a recruitment tool, help primary care doctors in town see more patients, and provide better quality care for patients in the hospital, Huselton said.

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in caring for patients in the hospital and do not have their own private practice outside the hospital. They care for patients referred to them by a family doctor. Family doctors who participate in the program do not have to be on call at all hours to care for patients at the hospital and can devote more time to working at their clinic. The hospitalist keeps in touch with the patient’s family doctor, and after the patient is released from the hospital, they follow up with their family doctor at the clinic.

Dr. Greg Kendrick, a doctor of internal medicine, is Conway Regional’s hospitalist. He has been working in his current capacity since January but has been with the hospital since 1999. He said he chose to become a hospitalist for a few reasons.

“It’s an emerging specialty. It’s clear it’s not just a fad now. I’ve found I liked doing the hospital work better than the clinic.

“There’s a movement away from internists practicing both in-clinic and at the hospital. It’s a product of the system. Doctors practicing in the clinic are so overwhelmed by information and patients. It’s so difficult to do them both.”

He went on, “It’s a relatively new idea that’s really picking up steam nationwide. I think it’s such a trend it’s going to be necessary for hospitals to have a hospitalist program. For towns this size I think it’s going to be the standard before long to have a hospitalist program.”

The advantage of the program for the patient, he said, is that a doctor is readily available who is dedicated to seeing patients at the hospital.

The benefit for the primary care (family) doctor is they can focus on their clinic, Kendrick said.

“As a clinic doctor you traditionally get called all day with concerns about what’s happening with your patients in the hospital. This program frees the physician up not to worry about that.”

Only 10 family doctors are admitting to the program now, because it would be overwhelming to cover for more, Kendrick said. He said the 10 doctors in the program have been committed to getting the program going.

Huselton said the hospital anticipates it will expand its program to three hospitalists by July and possibly a fourth by the end of the year. With the additional hospitalists on board, 20 to 25 more family doctors could participate in the program, Kendrick said.

Huselton said patient reaction to the program has been “really supportive.”

“They realize when they come as an inpatient they have someone there, whereas before, they were having to wait for their primary care doctor.”

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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