MOUNT CARMEL — Wabash General Hospital has implemented a new hospitalist program, and while the physicians might like it, Chief of Staff Dr. Lawrence Jennings said patients are still getting used to the concept.

Rather than being "on call" day in and day out, area primary care physicians are now taking week-long shifts of being on call to the hospital. As a result, patients are not always going to see their personal doctor when they are in the hospital.

"The physicians like this way we are running it," Dr. Lawrence Jennings said to the board of directors Monday. "The advantage of the week-long is you get great continuity — the patient gets to know you, you get to know the patient, you become familiarized with the case. The majority of errors in hospital medicine occur on the hand off, so when I hand a patient off to another doctor, that's when most errors occur."

Dr. Jennings continued to say most incoming doctors are not accustomed to working in an environment where they are expected to see their patients both in the office and in the hospital.

"Today you do outpatient work or you do inpatient work, but you don't do both," he said. "You will struggle to recruit a candidate to come and work if he realizes he will have to come see patients everyday in the hospital and then go back to the office and back to the hospital — they don't see that, they don't train like that."

There have been complaints about patients not getting to see "their doctor," Dr. Jennings said.

"I think its going to take some time for the community to adapt to this, but I think it is essential. I don't think you could go on the way it was for a lot of reasons," he said.

President and CEO Jay Purvis agreed.

"I do believe it is working better for our physicians. It improves their lives, however, the norm in our community — it is sometimes difficult for our patients to accept," Purvis said. "I agree with Dr. Jennings. We don't talk to any of these young people that are being trained to practice medicine the way Dr. Jennings trained."

Dr. Jennings and the board discussed ways in which the new program is hurting the hospital's patient satisfaction ratings.

"It's like taking a whipping I tell you," Dr. Jennings lamented. "I always keep in mind that the patients come first, this could be my next door neighbor, and I'm going to give it my best effort, whether it is my patient or not. I'm going to give them my best idea and I'll do the best I can for them. They may or may not like the fact that I'm not Dr. Jahi or Dr. Anadkat or Dr. Vyas — I mean they chose them for a reason, they think that that guy is the best doctor in town."

Dr. Jennings said that in any small community, it is best to approach the patient with kindness and the best level of care, even if you know they don't like you for one reason or another.

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