Last evening, I was heading to a meeting in the hospital and said hello to a woman who was waiting to go into another meeting. She first stared at me, not saying anything, and she then looked me up and down and said "You're Ronan, the CEO, right?” I responded that I was and she continued in a somewhat agitated tone to ask "Why is it that you won't allow my doctor to practice in this hospital?" I informed her that the reason her physician doesn't practice at the Western Maryland Health System has nothing to do with not being allowed; it is because her physician has chosen to have an office practice exclusively and not follow his patients into the hospital. She looked at me incredulously and said, "Well, why didn't he tell me that?"
As physicians make the choice to no longer follow their patients in the hospital, we are left with no alternative but to hire hospitalists who follow their patients when they are hospitalized. I also told the woman that WMHS also encouraged these physicians to send letters to their patients informing them of their decision to have an office practice exclusively. In some cases, we even drafted the letter for them; some sent the letters, others didn't. Based on what has happened to physician payment over the last five or so years, I can certainly understand why many have resorted to an office practice exclusively, but it would be helpful to all concerned if they would have told their patients why they were making that decision.
The woman then told me that she used to work at both Memorial and Sacred Heart and she could tell me lots of stories about physicians so nothing would surprise her. I wished her a good evening and continued onto my meeting. Actually, I was glad that I had the opportunity to clarify the situation for this woman. There has been a lot of criticism of the health system in the past over this issue; all of which is unfounded.