The Use of Hospitalists by Small Rural Hospitals: Results of a National Survey
Research on hospitalist programs has primarily focused on large, urban facilities. To fill a gap in the literature on hospitalist use in rural hospitals, the authors conducted a national survey of 402 rural hospitals with 100 or fewer beds that had reported having hospitalists. The survey examined reasons for using hospitalists, characteristics of hospitalist practices, and the impacts of hospitalist use in rural settings. Rural hospitals most commonly establish a hospitalist program to address medical staff requests, call coverage, and quality issues. Respondents report positive impacts of hospitalist programs on quality of care and primary care physician recruitment and retention, but mixed financial impacts. Assessments of the impact of hospitalists in rural hospitals need to take into account the variety of practitioner specialties functioning as hospitalists, the amount of time they spend as hospitalists, and the multiple roles they play in the rural hospital and community.