I learned a new word today: "hospitalist". The fist time I saw it, in a paper on "Determinants of Hospitalist Efficiency", I mis-read it as "hospital's", then realized it wasn't that, and thought it might be a really spectacular typographical error. But in fact it's a real word, coined in 1996 by Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman, which now gets nearly 34,000 hits on Google Scholar (where hit counts seem to be more or less believable).
What does it mean? Well, Dr. Wachter ("An introduction to the hospitalist model", Annals of Internal Medicine, 1999) explains:
Motivated by a search for improved quality and efficiency, increasing numbers of hospitals and physicians are moving from systems in which all primary care providers manage their own hospitalized patients or rotate this responsibility among themselves at infrequent intervals to voluntary or mandatory systems in which patients are "handed off" to the care of an inpatient physician, the "hospitalist." All hospitalists manage medical patients in the hospital. Other potential roles for these physicians include triage in the emergency department, transfer of "out-of-network" patients, management of patients in the intensive care unit, preoperative and postoperative management of surgical patients, and leadership in hospital quality improvement and regulatory work. Hospitalists may add value by being more available to inpatients, having more hospital experience and expertise, and having an increased commitment to hospital quality improvement compared with primary care providers. Potential disadvantages of the hospitalist model include loss of information as a result of discontinuity of care, patient dissatisfaction, loss of acute care skills by primary care physicians, and burnout among hospitalists. A variety of models of care are needed to meet the clinical, organizational, financial, and political demands of diverse health care systems. The favored model should be that which produces the best clinical outcomes and the highest patient satisfaction at the lowest cost.
The word was obviously formed by analogy with specialist, internist, gastroenteroogist, radiologist, opthamologist, urologist, psychiatrist, etc. This might suggest that hospitalists treat patients whose problem is a malfunction in the hospital — though maybe that's the point.
Hospitalist is in the OED, glossed as "Med. (chiefly U.S.). A physician specializing in the care of hospital in-patients.", and in Merriam Webster, glossed it as "a physician who specializes in treating hospitalized patients of other physicians in order to minimize the number of hospital visits by other physicians".