What is an intensivist?

An intensivist is a physician who specializes in treating critically ill patients and has specific credentials and experience, including a completed fellowship in critical care medicine after a residency. Intensivists are also called critical care physicians.

Intensivists take a whole-patient approach to ICU care. This includes taking on primary responsibility for patient care and making sure that the efforts of specialists are connected holistically, which improves efficiency and outcomes. Typically, intensivists provide dedicated onsite care in an ICU. In addition, intensivists look at the ICU as a whole, creating a positive culture and sense of accountability that translates into better resource utilization and improved clinical outcomes such as mortality and complication rates, and patient and nursing satisfaction.

Why use intensivists in an ICU?

Patients in an ICU have complex medical issues and conditions. Sudden complications can quickly endanger lives. An intensivist is prepared to respond to all kinds of issues and to work cooperatively with other specialists and ICU staff to deliver optimal treatment.

In a hospital without an intensivist-led ICU, each patient’s primary care physician is typically responsible for overall care. These doctors may have limited experience with critically ill patients and must often balance many other patient commitments within and outside the hospital, limiting their availability and opportunity to consider and coordinate specialist input.

An effective intensivist-led ICU program provides qualified, specialized leadership and evidence-based practices that deliver consistently high quality outcomes and lower overall costs. In an ICU with strong patient outcomes and clear protocols, hospital medical staff will also experience higher satisfaction along with patients and their families.