Changes to Hospitalist Program at Penn Highlands Elk

The hospitalist program at Penn Highlands Elk is undergoing some changes designed to bring a higher level of service to inpatients. According to Penn Highlands’ chief medical officer, Dr. Gary DuGan, the program is evolving for the better.

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the care of hospitalized patients and their unique conditions. Because hospitalists do not maintain a practice outside of the hospital, they can focus all of their attention on patients inside the hospital. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, his or her primary care physician shares the patient’s condition and medical history with the hospitalist so he or she can effectively manage and treat the patient’s illness. Since a member of the hospitalist team is always in the hospital, the patient’s progress can be consistently monitored. This allows for timely follow up on test results so the plan of care can be appropriately and quickly updated. A member of the hospitalist team is also available to meet with the patient’s family members as requested.

Until recently, the hospitalists at Penn Highlands Elk were employed by the health system. Now they will be employed by a nationally-renowned company, Apogee Physicians, that specializes in hospital-based care and has a proven track record for quality care and patient satisfaction. Apogee is currently working with hospitals in 32 states across the nation. Their guiding principle puts patients first.

“This company trains its physicians at an academy almost like the Ritz Carlton approach,” says Dr. DuGan. “Their defined model of care is vastly superior to what we have had.”

“This is a step toward service improvement,” explains Rose Campbell, president of Penn Highlands Elk. “Our patients and their families will notice the addition of Advance Practice Professionals and a Patient Information Coordinator to support the Hospitalist in providing exceptional care to our patients.”

According to Dr. DuGan, the initial plan is to have two physicians and an additional two advanced care providers, like nurse practitioners or physician assistants on the hospitalist team. Additionally, a patient information coordinator will work with the team to streamline the data-gathering process and meet with all newly-admitted patients. This person will function as facilitator, helping the patient navigate the sometimes-confusing healthcare process. The coordinator will also work with patients when they are discharged to ensure they understand their instructions and receive follow-up care. This person will also act as the liaison between the hospitalist and the family physician who admitted the patient.

“The hospitalist program is an essential service to Penn Highlands Elk, and we intend to make it the best it can be,” says Dr. DuGan.