Over the past decade or so, many health systems and facilities have accepted the "Triple Aim" of enhancing patient experience, improving population health, and reducing costs as the benchmark for care. More recently, the "Triple Aim" has evolved into the "Quadruple Aim," with added emphasis on physician and staff wellness and satisfaction.
Achieving the Quadruple Aim is a massive undertaking and is only successful when everyone buys in: physicians commit to improved patient care and communication, administrators focus on cost, coordination of care and creating a healthy environment for their employees, and patients are willing to take care of themselves and follow treatment plans.
But where do locum tenens physicians fit in? Though 40,000 physicians work locum tenens every year, they are often still viewed as outsider physicians who have no commitment to meeting the larger objectives of the facility or health system.
That perception couldn't be further from the truth. If you're hiring locum tenens physicians from a reputable staffing company, you can rest assured that you'll be getting more than just an outsider physician. In fact, the staffing agency will send a physician who has been reviewed in more areas than are often required by the facility or practice — the agency covers the locums' malpractice insurance, so it's in their best interest to only place physicians with good track records.
By definition, locum tenens only fill a temporary need, but the scope of that need touches all parts of the Quadruple Aim.
Enhancing the patient experience
The very first step of ensuring that a patient has a good experience with a physician is having a physician for the patient to see. Without a locum tenens stepping in when a facility is short-staffed, patients either have to wait for care or be seen by a physician who is dealing with the stress of an increased workload.
Locum-tenens doctors quickly learn that if they want to keep working, quality patient care is a must. That means being adaptable to any situation they find themselves in, and the ability to communicate clearly with staff and compassionately with patients. Most importantly, good locum tenens doctors tie up all the loose ends before they leave so the returning permanent physician can seamlessly continue the patient's care.
Improving population health
There are huge variations in population health, not just from state to state but county to county — and rural areas are still facing an uphill battle when it comes to access to care. Locum tenens has become a crucial part of the staffing model in rural facilities that have a tough time attracting permanent physicians.
More than just serving as a stopgap, locum tenens physicians make a huge difference in underserved areas. Not only do they provide the care that patients have been waiting for, but bring experience and expertise gained in academic and urban settings that can help the facility long beyond the end of the assignment. Because many locum physicians are attracted to rural areas as a way to give back, they also frequently end up taking repeat assignments at a facility and integrating with the staff and the community.
Physicians are revenue generators. If a physician takes a vacation, goes out on maternity leave, or leaves the practice, their revenue disappears. Hiring a locum tenens allows you to continue to see the same number of patients and bill for services without overburdening your existing staff.
They also give facilities flexibility to meet the specific needs of a population. Locum tenens are a much more cost-effective way to deal with seasonal census increases or vacation season than bringing on a full-time physician.
Improving employee satisfaction
Health facilities often understand the benefit of using locum tenens to keep up with the needs of their patients, but they're often surprised by how much of an impact these physicians make on their existing staff. One of our physicians recently told me that the first thing people say to him when he shows up on an assignment is, "I'm so glad you're here."
That's not surprising. By the time a locum shows up, the rest of the team has already been covering extra shifts or caring for additional patients. If you want to avoid physician burnout at your facility, locums tenens can ensure you have enough hands to carry the weight of your practice.
Achieving all areas of the Quadruple Aim is no easy task, but we're all in it together. When you work with locum tenens physicians, you should expect the same commitment to this goal as you would from your permanent staff.