Hospitalist: A hospital-based general physician. Hospitalists assume the care of hospitalized patients in the place of patients' primary care physician.
The term "hospitalist" was first introduced in 1996 by RM Wachter and L Goldman to describe physicians who devote much of their professional time and focus to the care of hospitalized patients.
In the most prevalent American model of hospitalist care, several doctors practice together as a group and work full-time caring for inpatients.
Hospitalists are familiar figures. Doctors specializing in intensive care have long taken care of patients admitted to the ICU by primary care doctors; geriatricians working in nursing homes have often admitted patients to the care of their hospital-based colleagues; etc.
"Thus," notes HC Sox, "the hospitalist model (of care) is not new (in the U.S.), but it is growing rapidly as a result of the role of managed care organizations, the increasing complexity of inpatient care, and the pressures of busy outpatient practices."