Dr. Kristy Petersen, Dr. Garrett Shelton and Stan Tatum, chief executive officer with St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center (from left). (Staff Photo by BONNIE VCULEK)

Two Enid physicians are changing from seeing patients in the clinic to seeing patients only at the hospital.

Kristy Petersen, a family practitioner in Enid for 17 years, and Garrett Shelton, an Enid family practitioner for 13 years, have been hired on for the hospitalist program launched by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in September.

A hospitalist treats patients who are admitted to the hospital. It can be a case the patient does not have a primary-care physician, their physician is not a member of the St. Mary’s medical staff, they have been transferred from a different hospital, or that their primary-care physician chooses not to make hospital rounds.

“The hospitalist program is here to take those patients who do not have a physician who works at this hospital,” Shelton said.

“We are not replacing their physicians’ ability to take care of them while they are not in the hospital,” Petersen said.

For both Petersen and Shelton, the decision to become hospitalists was an opportunity too good to pass up.

“I’ve been blessed with great partners, great patients and wonderful staff,” Shelton said. “But this is a great opportunity for me to be able to schedule more time with my family.”

Petersen agreed.

“I love what I do now,” Petersen said. “I didn’t go looking for a job, but when the opportunity arises to practice medicine in the community that you love and have the opportunity to spend more time with your family, that’s hard to pass up.”

Both Shelton and Petersen have children living at home, and their schedules as hospitalists will have them working seven days on and seven days off.

St. Mary’s CEO Stan Tatum said the hospitalist program eventually might include as many as four physicians, depending on the level of demand for the service. Some Enid physicians will continue to see their own patients at the hospital. Others will have the patient’s hospital-based care overseen by the hospitalist physician.

“We have a lot of doctors who enjoy having both a clinic and hospital-based practice,” Tatum said. “Part of it is the willingness of those doctors to turn over the care of the patients to the hospitalist.”

Tatum said the hospital contracted with Apogee Physicians to manage the hospitalist program. Since September, Apogee has provided hospitalists to St. Mary’s, sending them from other locations.

The use of hospitalists has been a trend in medical care for about a decade, Tatum said.

“Managing patients in the hospital has become more difficult in the last few years,” Tatum said. “Some of that comes from the mandates of the Affordable Health Care Act.”

Unless all the requirements are properly met, the hospital can see a negative financial impact, Tatum added. Hospitalists will be able to focus on those requirements better, because they won’t have clinic-based care to manage as well.

Part of Apogee’s service is an in-patient care coordinator, which serves as a liaison between the hospitalist and a patient’s primary physician, keeping the line of communication open.

Shelton noted having hospitalists on board at St. Mary’s will make it easier to recruit new primary-care physicians to Enid. In talking to physicians about coming to practice here, some have said they prefer to practice in a community that has hospitalists.

Additionally, St. Mary’s is recruiting new physicians for Enid by reinstating a medical residency program, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, said Cyndy Shepherd, St. Mary’s marketing director.

“We’ve had that program before,” Shepherd said. “A lot of the practitioners are on our staff now.”

Shelton will see patients at his office at Family Physicians through the end of March. Petersen will see patients in the clinic until the middle of April.

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