According to the Society of Hospital Medicine, the number of hospitalists, or physicians who practice only in hospital settings, is set to double from just 2005. The Association says that trend is nearly universal throughout the United States and researchers at HPSA Acumen have taken note of the increases as well. For better or for worse, as many primary care physicians retire or leave traditional practice settings, the next physicians to take their place in the community are hospitalists. The American Medical Association published an article on this trend earlier this month.
When HPSA Acumen researchers survey physicians, a hospitalist automatically receives “zero” FTEs, since the government assumes these physicians are not in a position to offer primary care in the community.
This means a great deal to areas with recognized shortages and communities that have yet to seek a designation, like the Health Professional Shortage Area or the Medically Underserved Area. Ultimately, hospitalists are the just the latest nuance in an overall shift toward specialized medicine that rewards physicians with additional compensation, greater intellectual stimulation and customized schedules. It’s the shift that also deprives communities of the primary care practitioners with a medical — M.D. or D.O. — degree.
In turn, this means that it is less difficult for a community to obtain a HPSA designation that recognizes the primary care underservice within a community.
The table below shows the most recent annual estimates of the number of hospitalists in the United States as well as their projected number through the end of this year.