Hospitalists may bring new patients to local hospital

Richardson Medical Center may not have had its best year in 2008, but things are improving.

Hospital administrator Kerry Goff said the hospital’s latest audit showed the facility losing $900,000 last year.

Goff said part of the problem was trouble with Medicare “not paying us like they should” and that collecting payments from non-insured patients was often a problem as well.

However, the biggest problem he noted was that the hospital is just admitting fewer patients -- about 200 fewer than the year before.

A new hospitalist program at Richardson Medical Center might be the key to turning that trend around, though. Even though the program has just started, it’s already drawing more patients to the hospital.

“We just admitted eight patients today,” Goff noted.

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in caring for patients in the hospital. Hospitalists do not have an outpatient medical practice — their work is solely dedicated to caring for patients in the hospital. Their work is overseen by pulmonary critical care physicians.

“A big part of the problem has been getting doctors to admit patients to the hospital,” Goff explained.

Most area doctors have private practices and don’t have the time or inclination to leave their offices and travel to the hospital to admit a patient, Goff pointed out.

“They can make more money and see more patients in their own offices,” he said.

Hospitalist programs recognize that physicians are busy — whether attending to patient visits or handling day-to-day oversight of an office practice. A hospitalist program works to ease the burden of continuous visits to the hospital, offering referring physicians the assurance that their patients are receiving the highest level of care during an inpatient stay. And most importantly, when the patient leaves the hospital, the physician is assured a smooth transition back to the office practice.

By partnering with the company which currently staffs Richardson Medical Center’s emergency room, the hospital can have a hospitalist doctor on duty at all times.

Goff noted that the hospital has been trying with little luck to get one local doctor to admit patients to RMC for years. In the first day of the hospitalist program, the doctor referred six patients to the hospital.

If inpatient admissions pick up as much at RMC as they have at similiar hospitals which have implemented the program, the hospital should see an increase in patients by next year.

Other bright spots in the hospital’s future include bringing a new surgeon on staff in July and getting in-house CT scans and a cath lab up and running.

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