Part 2: Locum Tenens: The #1 Solution to your Physician Shortage Problem

The rising physician shortage has caused locum tenens practitioners to become increasingly important. However, utilizing locum tenens also brings additional complications to credentialing and privileging practices.

In our previous post, we discussed the alarming trends that contribute to the shortage of practitioners. Today we’ll discuss the implications of these trends on Medical Staff Services Professionals (MSPs) and billing.

The Need-to-Know Facts of Practitioner Shortages

In case you missed the first post, we discussed the causes of the shortage of practitioners. In short, this is due primarily to a) fewer medical students, b) growing number of physicians retiring, and b) steady decline in job satisfaction due to things like external regulations, push /pull technology and threats of litigation. The result is more practitioners are leaving the healthcare industry then there are those entering it! This shortage of physicians in traditional healthcare provider roles has opened new opportunities for locum tenens practitioners to occupy more and more positions.

The Locum Tenens Appeal

The increase in use of locum tenens physicians can be attributed to many factors. Many practitioners who are practicing as locum tenens are finding the experience more rewarding as it allows them to move throughout the country and practice in locations that they find interesting. For newer practitioners, working as a locum tenens practitioner allows them to experience different cultures, practices and technical skills that will help them discover things about themselves allowing them to more fully crystallize their career path.

Another reason why practitioners find the locum tenens practice to be enjoyable: cash in hand! Often times it frees them from the expense of establishing their own medical practice, paying medical malpractice premiums, EMR investments, and other related expenses so they make more net income.

Most Wanted List

What’s more interesting are the changes around in-demand practices within the past few years. According to a 2014 survey conducted by Staff Care, the most consistently in-demand practitioners are Primary Care Physicians, with Behavioral Health Specialists and Hospitalists trailing a close second.  

Other interesting figures show that 54.90% of all participants use a locum tenens practitioner until a permanent practitioner is found. This figure has nearly doubled in a span of 4-years. With more hospitals experiencing physician shortages , bringing in locum tenens physicians and other health care professionals has given hospitals more time to find permanent practitioners.

Medical Staff Services Professionals (MSPs): Answering the Call

The shortage trends have led to more hospitals seeking the assistance of the MSP in the Medical Staff Services Department as a resource in searching and vetting qualified locum tenens staffing agencies to help fill physician vacancies

It is critical that the MSP, recruiter and the representative from the staffing agency work collaboratively to quickly identify, credential and orient the locum tenens practitioner by the needed start date without compromising the established Medical Staff criteria or the quality when performing required and appropriate credentialing verifications.

Bills, Bills, Bills

While credentialing locum tenens is required by following high standard credentialing and privileging practices, billing for the services these physicians provide creates its own set of challenges. Billing of the locum tenens is handled by the health care hospital receiving services. Payment is considered per diem and in order to get to the MSP, must go through the regular practitioner that was replaced by the locum tenens practitioner.

Medicare follows the same billing procedures as well. However, if the practitioner has left their position, a temporary replacement practitioner may bill for the locum tenens practitioner by entering item 24d of Form CMS – 1500 the HCPCS modifier Q6. (Get the details on this procedure here.)

It’s important to keep in mind that some practices may have their own criteria for CMS. For example, locum tenens nurse practitioners do not follow the same Medicare rules. Billing for locum tenens nurse practitioners are unique to the State where they served.

Sum It Up

With the increasing shortage of physicians in the United States, one solution that has increased in momentum is the hiring of locum tenens practitioners. It allows hospitals to access practitioners during an influx in workload due to practitioners leaving practice or a temporary leave of absence.  Utilizing the expertise of MSPs in this staffing and credentialing partnership can help health care organizations maintain access to high quality locum tenens staffing agencies and qualified physicians and practitioners for accelerated access when they need it.

If you’d like more information about the shortage of physicians and how locum tenens are providing a solution, listen to our symplr education series webcast titled, Introduction: Locum Tenens with guests Donna Goestenkors and Susan Collier. For more information about accelerating your payor enrollment using symplr PE solutions and services, Schedule a Demo with symplr today!

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Donna Goestenkors

About the Author
Donna Goestenkors

Donna is a full time healthcare consultant, speaker, author, educator, and mentor serving the Medical Staff Services industry for over 40 years. Her diverse project experience includes assignments in every work environment and rapport building among all levels of professional and executive staff. Donna is a past President of NAMSS and her client work covers all of the industry's environments from Healthcare Systems to critical access hospitals.

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