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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2009 Nov;15(6 Suppl):S18-23. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181b3a3f8.

Social science insights into improving workforce effectiveness: examples from the developing field of hospital medicine.

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  • Departments of Medicine and Economics and the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. d-meltzer@uchicago.edu


The translation of insights from the biological sciences to medical practice requires actions by clinicians, patients, and others involved in healthcare. This makes insights from the social sciences critical to improving medical care. The recent emergence of hospitalists in the United States--physicians who specialize in the care of hospitalized patients--is an important innovation in how biomedical knowledge is translated into clinical care. This article discusses work by my colleagues and me examining the emergence of the hospitalist model by using the tools of the social sciences to understand whether, and under what conditions, hospitalists reduce the costs and improve the outcomes of care, and developing tools to measure and improve the quality of hospital care. The social scientific concepts and tools that we have drawn upon reflect a wide range of the social sciences, including economics, sociology, psychology, and related fields, such as clinical epidemiology and program evaluation. Many of these issues we have examined, including how professionals learn from experience and from their peers and how to measure and reward productivity, have important potential to address challenges faced by the public health workforce and reflect the broad potential for insights from the social sciences to inform public health workforce policy.

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