Baby boomers were among the first group of physicians who didn’t routinely take a position or open a practice right out of training and look to stay there until retirement. Generation-X doctors, whom, after watching their parents adjust their career paths significantly and change physical environments, are even less likely to remain in at a single place of residency for any significant length of time. This combined with the fact that the physician shortage is prevalent in many specialties and developing in many others. All around the country, in rural and metropolitan areas alike, physicians’ shortages and long, costly recruitment cycles have become the norm. Can locum tenens ROI really be the answer?
“…The number of residents currently in training in several key specialties such as anesthesiology, cardiology, emergency medicine, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, OB/GYN, orthopedics, and radiology – are lagging far behind when compared with…” (NALTO.org: Locum Tenens: A Smart Investment)
“Unfortunately only a small percentage of medical groups actually quantify the cost of turnover. This could be associated with the size and amount of resources available to healthcare administrators. However, despite the arduous task, it’s imperative for practitioners to develop cost metrics that are unique to their operation. The first step is to calculate a practice’s loss in revenue while short-staffed because the data required to build this Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is already internally available.” (Mike Gianas; Redemption Creative LLC, is a Dallas, Texas based healthcare marketing consultant for the NALTO®)
Here are a few challenging scenarios faced by the healthcare industry that locums are uniquely positioned to fill:
- An operating suite needs to be closed again due to lack of anesthesiology coverage. The group that covers your facility has been trying to recruit new associates for some time now, but the shortage in the specialty is making it tough. The lack of utilization has a negative impact on revenue. Not to mention how this could impact the institution’s reputation as a full-service facility.
- Your ER group has always had a stellar reputation for providing quality care and received high marks for patient satisfaction. But looking over the statistics for the last quarter has you shaking your head. Patient wait times are up, incident reports have climbed in number, one of your key physicians is going part-time as of next month, and another gave notice.
- Your practice has never been busier. All the doctors and nurses on staff are functioning at capacity and, although they’re not complaining, as the practice administrator you are wondering if it’s time to recruit another physician. At the same time, you question whether or not patient volume is growing rapidly enough to support another full-time doctor’s salary not to mention expenses and benefits.
Locum tenens coverage can solve all the problems referenced above. And yet, there is still apprehension on the part of the hospital and medical practice executives about making use of this valuable resource. The most common objection to engaging locums’ physicians is the cost. Effectively paying more than a thousand dollars a day for physician coverage is a hard pill to swallow for those who keep a close eye on the bottom line.
What many healthcare executives fail to recognize, however, is that in most instances locums physicians more than pay for themselves regarding professional service revenue and inpatient and outpatient revenue generated for their affiliate institution.
In addition to the locum tenens physician’s daily rate, you will pay for travel and housing and extra for overtime and on-call duty. But, when you consider that you’re not paying the employer’s portion of FICA, benefits, malpractice premiums, and CME expenses and suddenly using temporary physician’s starts to look a whole lot more attractive. Factor in the non-monetary benefits of having locum tenens coverage and the return on investment is clear.
Aside from the bottom line savings; the non-monetary benefits of utilizing locums include:
Patients are more educated. They have high expectations when it comes to their medical care. If a patient goes through too much hassle to see a doctor, they quickly become dissatisfied. Such patients are quick to seek care elsewhere, or at the very least they will share their experiences with others. Healthcare administrators are interested in maintaining high patient satisfaction ratings as well as their fair share of the market.
With severe shortages in so many specialties, physicians are in the position to turn away if the demands of practice overweight the rewards. Younger doctors, in particular, insist on a reasonable schedule and enough time off to keep themselves from becoming exhausted and slipping into professional burnout. They want life balance which means not being on call every other night or weekend. Providing your permanent physicians with locum coverage on a regular basis so that they have time for rest and renewal is one tactic to retain the staff physicians; the ones you’ve worked so hard to recruit.
Astute hospital and clinic administrators now realize that retaining the physicians they have should be the highest priority if they don’t want to spend half their time searching for new physicians each year. Making sure that your busiest doctors get several weeks off each year by using locum tenens physicians may be the best investment you can make regarding retention.