If you have ever thought, “What are we going to do if Dr. So & So retires or leaves our community?” this article pertains to you and offers a solution. An overwhelmingly large number of groups and healthcare delivery systems are finding themselves in this very predicament.
It’s a complex and ever evolving analytical challenge to pin point all the reasons why the physician locum tenens market will grow considerably within the healthcare staffing ecosystem. However, there are some key factors that I believe will most likely cause an increase in physician attrition rates and higher physician job mobility, creating a boost in demand for locum tenens services.
Factors that accelerate higher demand for healthcare services should correlate with increased locum tenens demands. These include things like the aging baby boomer population, higher than usual unfilled jobs and higher overall rates of chronic conditions. Because the onset of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) accelerated demand in an already demand rich environment, locum tenens are more important than ever as a stop gap solution.
With that said, there are six main factors that I believe may support the cause for the drastic increase in utilization of locum tenens, making it a vital and necessary solution to the high growth in patient care demands.
1. Physician Shortage- Physician shortages are anticipated to remain at crisis low levels while demand for patient services continues to sky rocket. The demand for utilization has been accelerated with the implementation of the ACA recently. This historical and unprecedented dynamic all but guarantees that the demand will remain high for healthcare providers.
2. Improving Economy- The U.S. economy is improving which correlates with higher healthcare utilization rates. Good economy means more individuals have jobs and, therefore, utilize health care at much higher levels than otherwise.
3. Demoralized Physician Workforce- Survey after survey has shown that physicians are generally unhappy in their profession which makes for a less committed physician workforce. This may lower the desire for longer term commitments, creating even further coverage challenges.
4. Healthcare Consolidation- More and more physicians are being employed by hospital groups and conglomerates for various strategic and financial advantages. Vertical integration is the healthcare trend. These more organized, well financed entities tend to utilize locums more regularly to ensure continuity of care and, therefore, productivity.
5. Lower Attrition Rates- There is a higher acceptance of locum tenens providers by job providers as a recruiting strategy to lower attrition rates.
6. Quality Assurance- Healthcare systems are focused on quality measures as reimbursement for health care is moving toward outcome based pay. Gaps in coverage could result in poor outcomes, lowering reimbursement. The onset of the ACA has spearheaded the call for a quality based payment system. Continuity of care is the single biggest threat to quality outcome measures.
Considering the above factors, those looking to hire healthcare providers should consider locum tenens as a means to mitigate the staffing challenges that experts predict will escalate to crisis levels over the coming years. Physician shortage is a real problem and delivery systems must prepare in advance for the inevitable difficulties that the physician inaccessibility will create. By utilizing locum tenens as a recruiting and retention strategy for both stop gap and long term coverage, the healthcare industry is finding a solution to the current physician staffing challenges.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.