There is a significant shortage of physicians in the United States and this shortage is expected to continue over the course of the next decade or so. Chances are, healthcare facilities currently not relying on locum tenens physicians to supplement staff will need to do so in the near-term. In fact, it is estimated that over 75% of hospitals leveraged locums at least one time over the last year.
Locum tenens are particularly helpful when you have medical professionals on some kind of leave. This may be sick leave, pregnancy leave, or various other types of leave. You know when your medical professionals are returning and therefore will be able to tell the temporary individuals when they will be done at your hospital.
Many people within the healthcare industry enjoy becoming locum tenens because it allows them to explore different hospitals, work with different patients, and figure out what their niche is. You benefit from this significantly and it allows you to find professionals for your hospital in a very short period of time.
There is no question that using a locum tenens company to supplement medical staff can be a cost-effective way to ensure patient access and continuity of care and can help maintain and maximize revenue streams. However, in order to ensure a successful experience, it’s important to do some research up front. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when exploring locum agencies:
1. Scope of Service
Locum tenens healthcare staffing agencies come in all shapes and sizes. There are a plethora of small regional agencies, many of which focus on only a handful of medical specialties. In light of the level of effort needed to onboard an agency, it’s a good idea to take a close look at one of the handful of full-service national agencies that support multiple specialties – such as Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, Surgery, Radiology, Anesthesiology, Internal Medicine, Hospitalist, and many others. Full service agencies have more locums available to step in and help, have better and more efficient processes in place, and are better positioned to provide fast, effective, and comprehensive solutions.
2. The Business Model
Some locum tenens companies are “reactive” in nature – they take a locum tenens job opening and begin the search. This is an inefficient approach; the search can take a significant amount of time and, at the end of the day, there is no guarantee of success. This reactive approach to healthcare staffing can cost precious time, have a negative impact on patient care, and cost the facility money.
To avoid these pitfalls, look for locum tenens companies that are “proactive” in nature. Proactive agencies spend a significant amount of time and energy recruiting locums (even when there are no locum tenens jobs available). This approach drastically increases the likelihood that the agency will have a locum tenens physician available at any given time across multiple specialties – and can have a big impact on a facility’s ability to maximize patient access, up-time and revenue.
3. New License Assistance
Of course, a locum tenens physician is of little use if he or she is not licensed in the appropriate state and obtaining a new license is a time consuming process. Look for a company that actively helps its locum physicians obtain new state licenses. Some companies will even pay for new state licenses for locums and have doctors licensed in 10+ states. By doing so, they drastically improve their ability to react to coverage needs quickly and efficiently.
4. Credentialing Support
The credentialing process can make or break an assignment. Some companies disengage after a candidate has been selected, leaving the team and the locum to battle through credentialing. Choose an agency that has an experienced and robust credentialing support staff that will act as a liaison between the credentialing department and the agency’s locum. Doing so will save time and energy – and ensure that the locum is ready to go on the first day of the assignment. Most of the full service agencies referenced previously provide such support.
5. Medical Malpractice Insurance
The vast majority of locum tenens companies provide medical malpractice insurance for their locums – this is one of the big advantages of using a locum tenens physician. However, watch for hidden fees. Make sure to choose a company that does not charge additional separate fees for providing medical malpractice insurance.