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D. The Future Role of the Hospitalist

Narrator: This is Science Today. It's estimated that in the near future, the majority of Americans entering a hospital will be cared for by a physician known as a hospitalist, rather than their own primary care physician. Dr. Steve Pantilat, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco says this growing system will work best if there's ongoing communication between the two physicians.

Pantilat: What we've learned in a study that we did, is that primary care physicians like to communicate by phone. They like to actually talk to the hospitalist and so we encourage hospitalists to pick up the phone and call the primary care physician, particularly at admission and at discharge. And when things change - when patients get more sick is another time that primary care physicians want to know about their patient.

Narrator: Hospitalists are becoming more popular because it's believed they improve the quality and efficiency of inpatient care and are more available than primary care physicians. But without good communication, there's a downside.

Pantilat: They don't know the patient very well and there's a discontinuity between the primary care physician taking care of you in the outpatient side and the hospitalist taking care of you in the hospital.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.