An obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) is a physician specializing in female reproductive health and related conditions. A hospitalist is a physician who works exclusively in a hospital setting. In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of OB/GYN hospitalists. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology explains that their role often includes more generalized medical treatment of hospitalized patients based on the circumstances. Obstetrics is a specialty that encounters high rates of medical malpractice claims, as 77% of obstetricians report to have faced at least one claim.
Dr. Mark Simon, of the OB Hospitalist Group, explains that many obstetricians experience significant occupational pressure amid the continuous bureaucratic nature of today's healthcare environment. Obstetrics is faced with lawsuits often when a patient does not think that their outcome was reflective of what they had hoped or expected. While most pregnancies go according to plan, some encounter problems that may be attributed to the obstetrician. When these cases reach trial, some juries tend to be more sympathetic to the plaintiff than in many other types.
OB Hospitalist Responsibilities
These professionals tend to have a wide scope of responsibility. Common activities include providing care during labor and birth, tending to emergency room cases, covering for midwives, and various physician extender roles. They may be hospital employees, independently contracted, employed by a group practice, or recruited through a staffing agency.
Malpractice Benefits & Results
Many claims of medical malpractice stem from delays in care. If a mother goes into labor, the expectations are that the obstetrician or hospital be capable of quickly responding. If the patient's obstetrician is unavailable at the time, the responsibility often falls on a nurse in the interim. With an in-house OB hospitalist, those patients are less likely to encounter costly delays. One larger medical system that contracted with a hospitalist group saw a 31% reduction in adverse events. It is estimated that 40% of malpractice judgments against OB/GYNs would have been preventable if an OB was available at the time.
One possible problem is the “handoff,” or transition between the patient's regular physician and a hospitalist. Critical information regarding the patient's care may be unavailable or delayed, and some patients may not be capable of recalling their current medications. Ideally, a hospitalist will have timely access to the patient's electronic health records. In addition, there is often concern regarding patient follow-up after being released from the hospital setting and communication regarding the hospital visit back to their doctor(s).
Dr. Simon feels that OB/GYN hospital-based practice will continue to grow. He noted that females are increasingly entering the profession, which had largely been made up of males. This shift in demographics is likely to result in physicians who seek a more structured schedule and better work/life balance. Some OB/GYN hospitalists have expressed concern regarding their ability to complete the required volume of various procedures that are necessary for professional compliance and competency in the profession.