Healthcare Credentialing | symplr Blog

Part 1: Locum Tenens: The #1 Solution to your Physician Shortage Problem

Written by Donna Goestenkors | Feb 11, 2016 7:00:00 PM

Due to rising physician shortages and increasing regulations, physicians in particular have to work even harder and longer which leads to burnout and puts the quality of healthcare being delivered at risk. And research shows that the physician shortage will only continue to increase, threatening greater complications in the future.

In a recent webcast, we shared some key insights about dealing with physician shortages. I’ve organized the conversation into a two-part blog series. Find out what causes physician shortages and what you can do about it…

A Serious Problem

According to a study by the American Association of American Medical Colleges, a shortage of nearly 100,000 doctors is expected by the year 2020. This shortage in new doctors has created a need for temporary physicians to cover these gap areas. Other surveys show that 43% of physicians plan to retire within the next five years. If trends persist, the drop in quality health care can lead to much larger issues.  

Source of the Sickness

Retirement. We all aim to get there one day, but the dramatic number of practitioners and physicians who will be entering retirement within the next 10-years is going to cause a major “physician shortage” issue. Because of this, locum tenens services will continue to be in high demand. A recent survey by the Physicians Foundation found that 46 percent of doctors will change their practice styles within three years and 9 percent planned to work as locum tenens.

As a result, the survey found that locum tenens practitioners fall into into three main categories:

  • 20 percent of the physicians are coming directly from their residency training program
  • 70 percent are working as locum tenens practitioners with the intent of easing into retirement
  • 10 percent are transitioning their career from one practice type to another

Job Satisfaction is Taking a Major Hit

As if the retirement factor weren’t enough, now add in the additional pressures in an already stressful profession. The burnout struggle is real, and the influx of new practitioners has been deterred due to drops in job satisfaction. With the increasing trend of patients doing self-diagnosis and an increase in litigation, physicians and advanced practice practitioners are having to face even greater barriers.

As impactful as technology can be, patient-led Google searches and WebMD-based “research” is also taking a toll on the health of patient-practitioner relationships. This is leading to increased loss of job satisfaction from physicians struggling to adapt to the technological changes. (C’mon Siri, I thought we were friends!?!)

Furthermore, a study conducted by Stanford University Professor David Studdert revealed that 92% of physicians were found to be ordering image tests and diagnostic measures for assurance and 42% were eliminating high-risk procedures and avoiding patients with complications for fear of litigation.

There is an Answer!

The answer is quite simple. Locum tenens practitioners and physicians are being hired to temporarily relieve staff and help prevent staff burnout.

So what is locum tenens? To best understand how this solution is helping the shortage of physicians and practitioners, let’s take a look at some benefits of bringing these team members on board.

What’s in a Name?

Locum tenens practitioners can go by many names – temporary staff, coverage doctors, outsourced doctors, back-up physicians or practitioners - but by definition, they are a staff member who temporarily takes the place of another. What’s important to note is that as shortages continue to grow across all health care professions, this definition is growing to encompass more practices within medicine.

Under the current definition, locum tenens practitioners allow a physician to excuse themselves from practice to perform other tasks, such as additional certification(s), training and educational conferences, or other planned and unplanned situations like an illness or maternity leave.

A Beacon of Light… with a Catch

Without the flow of new professionals to replace them, the role of locum tenens practitioners has become increasingly important. Locum tenens practitioners can bring necessary relief. However, it’s worth noting that it may also bring additional complications to credentialing and privileges. Keep an eye out for part two of this blog series to learn more about managing many of the credentialing challenges that are encountered by Medical Staff Services Professionals (MSPs) when using locum tenens practitioners..

For more information about the shortage of practitioners and the role locum tenens, listen to our symplr education series webcast titled, Introduction: Locum Tenens Program. To learn more about user-friendly compliance and credentialing solutions and services, Schedule a Demo with symplr now!