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Do You Know Who is Taking Care of You in the Hospital? Part One

October 16, 2019 in

The days of having your own physician coordinate your care when you are a patient in the hospital have long passed. If you have been admitted to the hospital recently, you may have experienced a situation where you did not see your primary care physician—maybe they did not even know that you had been admitted to the hospital. In Part I of the series, “Do You Know Who is Taking Care of You in the Hospital,” the medical malpractice attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. (SPBMC) provide an overview of the shortcomings of The Hospitalist method and how you can advocate for yourself when receiving medical care.

The Hospitalist Method is the Most Utilized Model in Hospitals Today

The Hospitalist model is the most current model being used in almost all hospitals for providing care to inpatients. The hospital either retains a third-party company or employs physicians who typically work 12 hours a day for three days a week, although some may work longer on weekends. They are hired to provide the essential services and care that were once provided by your own doctor to inpatients in the hospital. These are doctors whom you have never met and who oversee the important role of coordinating and directing your care during a critical time.

Although the Hospitalist method should be set up to allow your primary care physician to be informed of your admission and speak and coordinate care with your physician when necessary, the medical malpractice cases we handle at SPBMC show that this is rarely done. Further, even within the Hospitalist model, there is no continuity of care from one day to the next due to the inconsistency of the work schedule of these third-party companies. During the night shift, there is an additional set of physicians known as Nocturnists who cover the entire hospital for admissions and acute issues. Due to the nature of these physicians’ workloads, they are typically overworked and understaffed. Additionally, when an issue arises involving a patient, the Nocturnist on call may resort to a phone call rather than seeing the patient in person to assess what is really going on. The issue is then left to be resolved, hopefully, for the next day shift Hospitalists—a process which is not guaranteed to occur. 

A Hospitalist does not have to be a physician—they can also be a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. Although, by law, a Non Physician  Hospitalist is required to be supervised by a physician, that supervision does not have to be direct and is often provided by a physician not actually present in the hospital.

The Attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. Advocate for Patients So They Can Receive the Proper Care

The attorneys at SPBMC have years of experience advising individuals on how to effectively advocate for themselves and their loved ones to avoid errors as a result of miscommunications between physicians and medical specialists. In one case, the attorneys at SPBMC deposed a physician’s assistant who was taking care of the most critical patients in a neuro-intensive care unit who testified that he was working a 25 hour shift, which is against the law with respect to the hours allowed to be worked by a resident. This case, along with many cases like it, is enough to make one wonder how this would be acceptable for a physician’s assistant with the responsibility of taking care of critically ill patients.

What does this information mean to you? The most critical takeaway from this important issue is that you must ensure that when you or a loved one is admitted to the hospital, that your primary care physician, or the specialist who is the most involved in your care such as a cardiologist or pulmonologist, is made aware of your admission and that they speak with those taking care of you in the hospital. You should not rely on assurances by the staff in the hospital that they will be contacting your physician. Upon discharge, you should insist that you are provided with all documentation about your admission so that you can personally bring it to your physician. This would include all pertinent lab data, hard copies of diagnostic studies, operative reports and more. Once again, the attorneys at SPBMC urge you to take initiative, as hospitals do not always fulfill this function. During your admission, if there are critical events or issues coming up, do not hesitate to call your own personal physician and insist that they speak with the Hospitalist or other provider who is caring for you during the admission. 

Learn More from a Medical Malpractice Liability Attorney at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C.

In a day-and-age of electronic records, it should be easy for a physician to communicate with hospital staff effectively. Be proactive and ensure that your care is being properly coordinated and understood by all involved. In our experience, the growing lack of coordination and communication has led to serious injuries where the patient suffers as a result. Thus, you must be, for yourself or your loved one, a fervent advocate. Do not be afraid to insist on such communication. To discuss your legal options with a dedicated pharmaceutical liability attorney at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C., contact our New York office today.