Health systems across the U.S. face mounting pressures to optimize value. The hospitalist specialty emerged 20 years ago to help answer the call, and has since become the fastest-growing specialty in the history of American medicine. But can the hospitalist field continue to deliver on their promise to reduce costs, shorten lengths of stay, prevent readmissions, and enhance quality of care and patient satisfaction?

Dr. Robert Wachter, widely regarded as the “father” of the hospitalist field, says absolutely – but only if it continues to innovate.

In 1996, Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” in a seminal article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Today, in a NEJM “Perspectives” article, he and co-author Lee Goldman explain: “It’s clear that today’s pressures require innovative approaches… The field’s greatest risk may well be complacency – failing to embrace the kinds of transformation and disruption that led to its birth.”

Wachter points to hospitalist programs that are challenging the status quo by developing early warning protocols using electronic health record data; pioneering methods of making rounds more patient- and family-centric, and applying process improvements approaches, such as the Toyota Production System, to inpatient care.

Such innovations are vital and should be studied, urges Wachter, who was named last year by Modern Healthcare as the most influential physician executive in the U.S. Indeed, over the past two decades, the hospitalist specialty has demonstrated our system’s capacity for massive change under the right conditions. Its future depends on the ability to reinvent health care once again.

Contact us to learn more about how Wachter can help your organization improve value, embrace technology, or chart its own future with innovative new approaches.