The term may have been coined by Dr. Robert Wachter in "The Emerging Role of 'Hospitalists' in the American Health Care System," published in the August 1996 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (The quotation marks around hospitalist are an indication of the word's novelty at the time.)
The March 2009 issue of O The Oprah Magazine includes hospitalist in an article about "New Kinds of Primary Care." (The other "new kinds," physician's assistant and nurse practitioner, are much less new.) Why seek out a hospitalist? According to author Lauren Dzubow:
A hospitalist makes it unnecessary for a PCP [primary care physician] to visit hospitalized patients, says Patrick Cawley, MD, president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. It also means a hospital patient will have an in-house point person to oversee the care she receives from nurses, surgeons, and specialists. ... Hospitalists are available around the clock, and are intimately familiar with the hospital environment. This can translate to a reduction in length of stay—and expense—by an average of 15 percent. And research shows that hospitalists provide a standard of care that matches or surpasses that provided by PCPs. In fact, a few studies indicate lower mortality and readmission rates in hospitalist programs.
Image: Today's Hospitalist magazine.