"Hospitalist" are physicians specialized in inpatient care, who act as a patient's primary doctor while the patient is hospitalized. Hospitalist are generally based on-site in a hospital, while a telehospitalist treats patients from another location, by means of video and data video links.
Hospitalist are in high demand. Some hospitals may have difficulty recruiting and retaining them, especially smaller hospitals or hospitals in rural areas. Using telehospitalist is a practical way for them to provide their patients with the advantages of hospitalist coverage.
Apart from the fact that the doctor is examining you via a remote video/data link, there is little real difference between being examined by a hospitalist and a telehospitalist. Statistical data on outcomes confirm this.
For exapmle, a 2021 study published in a Journal of hospital Medicine found that with telehospitalist, the average length of a hospital stay tends to be shorter than with traditional hospitalist. The readmission rate with telehospitalist is slightly higher, but with no change in the mortality rate. Patients are equally satisfied with both telehospitalist and hospitalist.
Telehospitalist setups vary, from a videoconferencing system on a cart that a nurse wheels into a patient room to a robot that travels the halls of the hospital, stethoscope in hand, almost like a physician. However, just because the hospitalist isn't in the room with you doen't mean you are alone.
A nurse or other health care professional is in the room at all times, often acting as the telehospitalist's "hands" to adjust the patient's position or apply a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff or other medical device. The cart or robot has a high-definition video "eye", so the telehospitalist can zoom in to look at you closely, or pull back for a wide-angle view to include other people in the room, such as family members, in the conversation.
The telehospitalist consultation won't be rushed. If anything, expect the telehospitalist to spend a little extra time getting to know you and your case becaouse they're in less of rush to get on to their other hospital duties. To make sure the examination is thorough, they may ask the nurse to take the time to clarify their findings.
According to satisfaction surveys most patients who have been treated by a telehospitalist respond favorably to the experience. Some patients even request telehospitalist care.