Financial backers of IPC The Hospitalist Co. are banking that one of the hottest trends in health care staffing is something investors might want to get a piece of.

The North Hollywood-based management company for hospital-based physicians hospitalists in industry lingo has filed a preliminary prospectus with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to make an initial public offering on the Nasdaq that could raise up to $105 million.

The public offering would be the first of its type for the industry and comes after years of relentless growth by IPC, which has acquired smaller hospitalist practices nationwide. Founded in 1995, the company's net revenue in 2006 grew 33 percent to $148 million, with net income falling 47 percent to $2.5 million due to expansion costs.

The company has not set an IPO date, or issued a final prospectus, and executives declined comment due to SEC "quiet period" restrictions.

Hospitalists generally have an internal medicine or family practice background and don't have an outside practice. They coordinate care for patients admitted to the hospital by a personal physician or through the emergency room.

As it has become logistically harder and less profitable for private practice doctors to make hospital visits, hospitalists have been used to fill the gap. Most attracted to the specialty are younger doctors looking for a more regular work schedule or the opportunity to work with very ill patients outside of the emergency room.

According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hospitalist programs have resulted in an average 13.4 percent reduction in hospital costs and an average 16.6 percent reduction in the average length of a patient's hospital stay.

Even so, turf battles often erupt when a hospital attempts to introduce a program, often triggered by primary care physicians who fear a strange doctor will make potentially hazardous changes to their patient's treatment plan.

"Despite resistance from many primary care physicians, this is the wave of the future because of the cost pressures on hospitals to be more efficient," said Jim Lott, executive vice president for healthcare policy and communications for the Hospital Association of Southern California.

IPC has attempted to counter that resistance by investing in technology, including a proprietary electronic management system that enables its doctors to improve communication with a patient's regular doctor. A national call center even follows up with discharged patients about medication and other issues.

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