Colombia, the new kid on the hospital medicine block

Hospitalists continue to gain exposure and acceptance in the U.S. as well as in other parts of the world, including Australia, Europe and Brazil. We are very excited that now the vibrant Andean country of Colombia is jumping on board.

A group of Mayo Clinic physicians organized by Fernando Rivera, FACP, directed by Jamie Newman, FACP, and invited by Jairo H. Roa, FACP, gave Colombia's first hospital internal medicine workshop, titled “Hospital Medicine, a 21st Century Reality,” in Bogotá on February 26. Guest speakers from the Mayo Clinic included David Klocke, ACP Member, chair of the division of hospital medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester; Mark Enzler, ACP Member; and Eric Summers, MD. The event was sponsored by two prestigious Colombian medical institutions: Fundación Santafe de Bogotá and Universidad de Los Andes.

Clinical and administrative sessions were presented to an audience of over 100 health care providers, hospital administrators and government representatives. Topics included the history of the hospital medicine movement, hospital throughput, complications of hospitalization, specialty units and hospital-acquired infections.

For the past 15 years, Colombia has struggled to develop an efficient health care system. Compared to neighboring countries, it has reached some degree of success in that 90% of its population has access to health care. Through the sessions as well as through dynamic round table discussions, the meeting's organizers sought to plant the seeds necessary for developing the structure, organization and motivation to set up hospital medicine practice in Colombia. Both the technical resources and the structure of the health care system in this part of the world are different from those in the U.S. Nevertheless, Colombian physicians' tenacity, skills and enthusiasm make them good candidates for the hospitalist model of care.

One exciting development at the meeting was the announcement of the development of the Pan-American Society of Hospitalists (PASHA). This organization will promote hospital medicine in the western hemisphere, with an emphasis on the issues most prominent in South America. The first meeting will be held in Florianopolis, Brazil, in late October 2010. The initial leadership will be a combination of physicians from the U.S., Brazil, Colombia and Chile.

Our time in Bogotá was relatively short but helped show attendees that generalists have another option to consider when practicing medicine. This meeting will pave the way to improving medical care, and its success confirmed that hospital medicine has a future in Colombia.