It could be a potentially dangerous gap in the health care system.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a lack of communication between doctors in the hospital and the doctor you see regularly.
Dr. Greg Chediak is among a group of doctors working to change that at Stormont-Vail. He is a hospitalist - a doctor based exclusively in the hospital. Stormont-Vail staffs a hospitalist 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Chediak describes them as a stabilizing force for patients. He says hospitalists follow patients through the hospital stay, taking care of issues that arise. When they're ready to go home, a hospitalist writes a discharge summary, noting any medications and follow-up tests or exams needed, that's sent to the family doctor or internist within 24 hours.
The addition of hospitalists is good news for doctors like Mike Atwood, a family practice doctor with Cotton-O'Neil Clinic. He says, in the past, he would try to juggle office appointments and hospital emergencies. He says, as a result, he wasn't around when many of the specialists were available to see his patients, so he didn't interact with them. The hospitalist, he says, is on-site and can meet withe other doctors, look at results of the tests they do and get them to the next needed doctor in a more efficient and timely fashion than he could from his office.
The expansion of electronic records makes the process work even better - family doctors know right away what medications or lab tests their patients need and hospitalists have immediate access to a patient's records.
It's a relationship that bridges the communication gap - one doctor assigned to make sure everything at the hospital is passed along to your doctor when you're back home.
"It helps to have someone with a broad view of what's going on during the hospital stay," Dr. Chediak says. He says, often, several organ systems are diseased, so to have someone who can summerize all those issues and relay them to the family doctor can be helpful.
You'll find more about the study from the February issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association at this link.