Stone County Hospital


SCH Taking New Treatment Approach

By Jody O’Hara

Since last May, Stone County Hospital has been taking a new approach to inpatient care. Dr. David Northington D.O. is serving as not only Chief Medical Officer, but also as Hospitalist, an evolving practice which is intended to bring a whole new patient experience to inpatient services.

An internist with more than 20 years of experience, Northington appears passionate about the hospitalist concept.

“I was becoming somewhat frustrated with the way traditional medicine was being practiced,” he said. “You had a portion of the day where you were in a clinical setting and a portion where you were in a hospital setting and, I didn’t feel anybody was getting the level of attention required and, in fact, sometimes the sickest population was unattended to.”

He also found it frustrating that the vast majority of his training had been in hospital settings and he was attempting to practice in a clinical setting.

Memorial Hospital in Gulfport had instituted a hospitalist program and it caught Northington’s interest. “From what I was seeing, it was contributing to increasing accountability and decreasing exhaustion on the part of doctors,” he said.

The term, “hospitalist,” was first coined by Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article. Its scope includes acute patient care, teaching and executive leadership related to the delivery of hospital-based care. It is considered to be the fastest growing specialty in the history of medicine.

Instead of having patients being seen by their personal physicians while making rounds outside of their clinical duties, the hospitalist essentially becomes the inpatients’ physician for the duration of their hospital stay. The hospitalist is in direct communication with the patients on a daily basis and can make recommendations and referrals based on those interactions.

Northington said the new, hospitalist model stresses communication, risk reduction and the sharing of knowledge.

“Communication, especially, was missing in the old model,” he said. “We are redefining an encounter between doctor and patient.”

It has been a good experience for at least one patient.

Joey Langley said he’d been hospitalized seven times in the last five years. The last two times, he has come under hospitalist care provided by Northington. “He’s a good doctor, I like him” Langley said. “”I notice he goes around and sees all his patients. “I’ve had other doctors who said they’re going to come see you and then they don’t; they run out of time or something, but Dr. Northington comes by every morning.”

With the changing norms of hospitalization, in which only the most seriously ill patients are admitted, the ability to communicate with a patient’s family and loved ones is invaluable to Northington. “I would save everybody, but that’s not the way the good Lord set it up,” he said. “With the level of interaction this allows me, I’m able to communicate with both the patient and their loved ones concerning what the results are expected to be.

“I’m able, really, to talk upfront and honestly about, ‘Here are the expectations,’ and figure out, ‘What does your loved one want?’ and discuss whether or not this body still has the ability to heal.”

If, in fact, it does, Northington is then able to make recommendations, take advantage of consultations, make necessary referrals and treat a patient as aggressively, or with support measures, as the situation demands.

“Everybody, really, comes out ahead,” Northington said. “Patients, caregivers, doctors, administrators.

“It’s a very well-rounded approach to health care.”