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Hospitalist works to improve patient care at ETMC Gilmer

Gilmer, Texas – Dr. Ilanko Upendran, a board-certified internal medicine physician, came to Gilmer in 2003 to work at the ETMC First Physicians clinic, but it wasn’t until June 2004 that he found the job he still loves today – hospitalist at ETMC Gilmer.

A hospitalist is a physician whose sole focus is on a patient’s care while in the hospital. A growing trend around the nation, utilizing hospitalists allows patients to have better access to physicians during their hospital stay, and allows primary care physicians to devote more time to patients in their offices.

Upendran said he enjoys being a hospitalist because of the professional satisfaction he gets from treating more severely ill patients versus treating the less severe illnesses a physician might encounter in a clinic setting.   

 Gilmer hospitalist 

John Clements (left) and Dr. Ilanko Upendran.

He also enjoys building relationships with his patients. “I always start by giving credit where credit is due. I tell my patients, ‘God is the healer. He just uses us to do the work.’ Then we move on from there.”

Upendran’s openness and personal touch are what impressed John Clement. He was hospitalized at ETMC Gilmer earlier this year for an infection. “Dr. Upendran was there every day. He took care of me and my wife. He was a doctor and a friend,” Clement said.

 “Dr. Upendran made such an impression. He took the time to explain everything. I had no doubt about my diagnosis. I knew exactly what my illness was, what they were going to do and how long it was going to take. The nurses also were good about explaining what they were doing. They really kept us informed. It really helps when you know what is happening.”

While Upendran enjoys the challenges of caring for hospitalized patients and developing relationships with those patients, he also enjoys the staff he works with day in and day out at ETMC Gilmer. “It’s like a family,” he said. “We have a wonderful nursing staff. They have such knowledge. I trust them. They are not going to miss anything. I’ve worked at a lot of hospitals, and to find nurses of this caliber, at a hospital our size, is unusual. They are well-trained and skilled.”

Dr. Upendran has worked in teaching hospitals, as well as community hospitals. He completed externships in internal medicine at Woodhull Medical Centre in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Charlestown, W. Va. and at Bridgeport Hospital, Yale University in Bridgeport, Conn. He also completed his internal medicine residency at Woodhull Medical Centre, and has worked at a number of East Texas hospitals during his time in the area.

He said the nursing staff at ETMC Gilmer is as good as any he has worked with anywhere. “We work as a team,” Upendran said. “We need each other to be a success. Everyone here has the same commitment. I think that shows in the care we provide. I wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of my folks.”

That teamwork was evident to Clement during his hospital stay. “Dr. Upendran worked so well with the other doctors. He worked great with the nurses. They worked together closely as a team. They were all very professional. I was taken care of very well.”

“The hospitalist program is designed to improve the quality of care patients receive while in the hospital,” said Jorge Leal, administrator of ETMC Gilmer. “We are constantly striving to improve the quality of care and service at ETMC Gilmer. We survey patients after a hospital stay to find out the areas where we are reaching our goals and those where we fall short. Over the past few years, we have seen our inpatient satisfaction scores rise. I believe the hospitalist program has played an important role in that.”

The numbers bear that out. ETMC Gilmer scores well on the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey, a public reporting initiative sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The survey asks a random sample of recently discharged patients about important aspects of their hospital experience.

One of the survey questions asks patients to “rate this hospital during your stay,” with 0 being the worst hospital possible and 10 being the best. According to the most recent reported data, 84 percent of ETMC Gilmer patients rated the hospital a 9 or 10. The national average is 67 percent and the Texas average is 70 percent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services posts HCAHPS survey results online at You simply type in your ZIP code and all hospitals within a 50 mile radius will be listed. You may choose up to three hospitals and compare their scores.

 While the hospitalist and the nursing staff contribute greatly to overall patient satisfaction, other departments, such as radiology, laboratory and housekeeping, also contribute to a patient’s comfort and care during a hospital stay.

Clement said his experience at ETMC Gilmer was a good one. “Everyone I came in contact with was a professional,” he said. “The meals were outstanding and always on time. My room was clean all the time. The volunteers were great. They would come by and visit and bring in the newspaper. They got me whatever I needed.”

ETMC Gilmer is part of East Texas’ largest healthcare system, the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. ETMC is a not-for-profit organization committed to improving the quality of life in communities throughout East Texas.