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Hospitalist Program Helps Physicians With 'Juggling' Act

By Lois Thomson

According to Dr. Thomas B. Corkery, trying to handle hospital visits along with an office practice can force some physicians into performing quite a juggling act. That's why Dr. Corkery and the Hospitalist Program at Canonsburg General Hospital (CGH) are trying to help with the balance.
Simply put, the hospitalist program is for doctors who either don't go to a particular hospital, or for those who have elected to no longer go to hospitals at all because just trying to run their office is occasionally too much to manage.
Dr. Corkery, Chief Medical Officer at CGH, explained the concept in further detail, pointing out that some of the objectives of the program are to enable patients to receive better and more timely care, and to enable shorter hospitals stays. For example, he said doctors who make hospital rounds usually do so in the morning, but a patient of theirs may be admitted to the Emergency Department in the afternoon. If the primary care physician (PCP), who is already in the office, receives a call, he or she must fit the call in between seeing patients, handling mounds of paperwork, prescribing tests, and other responsibilities. If the doctor can't respond to the call immediately, the patient may not get follow-up care, aside from what the ED physician prescribes, until the next day.
In another scenario, if a patient prefers CGH and his or her doctor doesn't go to that hospital, the patient will be assigned to the hospitalist for care. "We send a copy of the history and discharge summary to their PCP and keep them informed of what's going on," Dr. Corkery said, "and then when (patients) leave the hospital they follow up with their PCP." He emphasized that good communication is the key to having a smooth transition from hospital to office and vice versa.
So the advantage of CGH hospitalists is that they can go back and check on patients if a problem occurs, and they can also follow up on tests that were done that morning and redirect the care if necessary.
"It's condensing care without compromising quality, and it probably improves care and saves hospital costs—being discharged at night rather than waiting until the next day."
Dr. Corkery is part of a group of four internal medicine doctors who, in addition to himself, include Edward G. Dainesi, M.D., Michael J. Heise, M.D., and Vincent J. Trapanotto, D.O. They combined with Jeffrey Gretz, D.O. and Jennifer Lewis, M.D. of an out-patient office to comprise the six hospitalists at CGH. Dr. Corkery said that each of the physicians maintaining his or her own private practice is unusual for hospitalists, but they are able to handle both because they have the sufficient numbers. He added that CGH's program is not operating 24/7 yet, but that is the goal.
Dr. Corkery further mentioned that more PCPs are needed in this area, and another purpose of the hospitalist program is to make becoming a PCP more appealing to doctors by removing the juggling act.
For more information, call Nancy Mikolich at (724) 745-3045 or visit www.wpahs.org.

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Dr. Thomas Corkery, Chief Medical Officer at Canonsburg General Hospital, said that one reason for the advent of CGH's Hospitalist Program is to try to attract more doctors. "Recruiting primary care physicians to Western Pennsylvania is extremely difficult," he said; "we're trying to build a primary care base because there's a huge need for it. We have great training programs but physicians don't want to stay in Pennsylvania because the climate, insurance reimbursement and malpractice costs are better elsewhere. Plus, a lot who are coming out of training don't want to do any hospital (work), they just want to do office. And some just want 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and don't want to deal with weekend or night-time calls, or holiday services." He added that some graduates are going into specialty areas of practice because they earn more than primary care physicians, or are seeking work in urgi-care centers.
Dr. Corkery is hopeful that the hospitalist program will be one solution to attracting physicians to and keeping them in this area.

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