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There are many types of specialties in medicine. They run the gamut from pediatrics and gerontology, to oncology and gastroenterology. A relatively new medical specialty is called hospital medicine. This specialty is dedicated to delivering comprehensive medical care to individuals who are hospitalized.

In 1996, Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman proposed the term “hospitalist” to describe a physician whose primary practice is the care of hospitalized patients. Traditionally, family practitioners and internists cared for their patients both on an outpatient and inpatient basis. They would do rounds in the morning at the hospital and then go to their practice after that.

However, some physicians found that going back and forth between caring for patients in the hospital and in their offices affected their ability to efficiently treat patients. That—along with the paperwork involved for insurance, reimbursement, and pre-authorizationcreated a need for another way of dealing with hospitalized patients.

While there are still physicians who care for patients in the traditional wayboth ambulatory and hospitalizedhospitalists are becoming more popular in hospitals. It should be noted that in 1996 when Wachter and Goldman coined the word hospitalist the role was not familiar in America. It was however, a more typical form of dealing with hospitalized patients in Great Britain and Canada.

The National Association of Inpatient Physicians was formed in 1998 to represent the interests of hospital-based physicians and other members of the hospital medicine team. It is now known as the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM). According to the SHM, the majority of adult general hospitals with a bed capacity of 200 or more have implemented the hospitalist system or are in the process of launching one.

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