Cumberland Times-News

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March 17, 2013

Hospitalists contracted by health system

CUMBERLAND — Care for patients admitted to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center will be provided by hospitalists employed by Cogent HMG beginning April 1, according to the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Dr. George Garrow said Friday that the health system has contracted with the Nashville, Tenn., firm that provides similar care in more than 120 hospitals throughout the country.

A hospitalist is a physician whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients, according to Cogent HMG’s website.

The 20 or so existing hospitalists at WMRMC have been given the opportunity to work for Cogent HMG, according to Garrow. “Some have accepted and others have chosen to pursue other opportunities,” he said.

Garrow said hospitalist staffing numbers for April 1 and beyond have not been finalized, though he expects little change.

“Cogent will have ongoing recruitment of doctors and with their national presence that will be very helpful,” Garrow said. “Rural hospitals such as ours have recruitment challenges.”

The move to contracting hospitalist services follows similar changes for the radiology, pathology and emergency departments, according to health system spokeswoman Kathy Rogers.

Garrow called the change economically neutral. “The decision was made to provide a better patient experience and a quality outcome,” he said.

Cogent claims on its website, however, that its work has improved the return on investment at member hospitals.

A small number of local primary care providers continue to maintain admitting privileges at the Cumberland hospital so that they can care for patients there, Garrow said.

Garrow believes that number will continue to shrink because of growing outpatient treatments that keep doctors focused on their office work.

“Also, as primary care providers continue to gain confidence in our hospitalist program we anticipate they will more readily refer patients to our care,” he said.

Garrow said the large Cogent HMG network will allow the sharing of best medical practices among hospitals.

Patients will be seen more often, Garrow said, because of Cogent’s 24-hour staffing, thus making the discharging process more efficient and reducing the average length of stay.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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