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Ann Intern Med. 1999 Feb 16;130(4 Pt 2):382-7.

The hospitalist: new boon for internal medicine or retreat from primary care?

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  • 1Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ 08543-2315, USA.


The growing reliance on hospitalists in the United States has implications for several areas of internal medicine, including patient care, administration, clinical practice, and medical education. This paper discusses some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of the use of hospitalists in each of these areas. The new hospitalist practice mode highlights long-standing tensions about the role and direction of internal medicine, tensions that affect generalist and specialty care in both outpatient and hospital settings. The career trajectory of hospitalists will depend on whether burnout is a problem and on whether hospitalists will be able to compete effectively with sub-specialists, such as cardiologists and physicians specializing in AIDS. Clearly, hospitalism meets a clinical need and expands opportunities for internists, but it is important that it not overreach, forfeiting primary care turf and distorting medical education. This new field warrants close monitoring because of its potential effects and because-unlike related fields, such as emergency medicine and intensive care--its birth was strongly influenced by system-wide financial considerations.

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