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Looking back at how locum tenens physicians made an impact in 2017 and predicting trends in 2018.
Contrary to the everyday 'breaking news' cycle, there are positive stories to share from this year, including in healthcare staffing. Maybe it isn't as much about the crisis that we always face, as it is how we respond to be part of the solution.
There's something special about the person who instinctively runs toward any problem, instead of going the other way. It's the behavior that I noticed most this year as I returned to writing about locum tenens. More than ever, I noticed those who took action in the delivery of our healthcare services.
Immediate Needs Require Urgent Responses
We just experienced one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, including one of the most devastating storms in memory right here in my home state of Texas.
It might be too early to report just how many locum tenens physicians and temporary healthcare workers answered the call for help. However, we witnessed an outpouring of care from providers who responded to healthcare facilities of all kinds in affected areas across our country, as they struggled to stay open and pick up the additional responsibilities for those who were forced to close. Locum tenens staffing firms worked with providers in an urgent capacity around the clock to help practice facilities maintain a continuity of care in their communities. We witnessed this again and again, with the Hurricanes Irma and Maria as well.
In addition to responding to emergencies like natural disasters, it should be noted that more than ever, temporary healthcare professionals are picking up shifts at VA hospitals, often at a lower pay rate than they might find in the private sector We're also seeing a number of locum tenens professionals on assignment in the behavioral field, as mental health has become one of our country's top priorities.
Passing Policy at the State Level
This is where the most critical needs are being met in the political spectrum. States are not waiting for sweeping national policy at a federal level from Washington.
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) is the state-level, non-partisan policy solution aiming to strealine the multi-state licensure process for physicians to practice medicine away from home.
The IMLC is a product of the Federation of State Medical Boards to address the immediate need to allow more doctors the ability to gain licensure and provide services such as locum tenens and telemedicine to patients in painfully underserved locations. Half of the United States has now either joined the IMLC push by already issuing these licenses, preparing to do so due to recently passed legislation, or have had legislation introduced for upcoming consideration.
Predictions for 2018
In addition to ongoing opportunities that healthcare staffing allows contracting providers wishing to make a difference, almost all other facets of locum tenens will experience continued growth.
The talent pool itself will further expand, as more physicians will choose to work on assignment. They'll do so to earn supplemental income in addition to an employed position, or join the increasing ranks of providers choosing to forgo the stresses and bureaucracy of permanent roles. They'll be of all ages. Paying off medical school debt, nearing retirement, exploring new communities, types of practices, gaining team experience, advancing their skill levels, and volunteering in our time of need as previously mentioned.
Primary care will continue to be highest in demand of locum tenens, with hospitalists, emergency medicine, and mental health professionals close behind. They'll join teams of employed physicians, and more advanced practitioners both employed and also on assignment than ever before.
It will be key for practices that rely on locum tenens to meet their ongoing needs, to solidify what their unique staffing mix looks like in order to continue to meet their patient demand and exceed revenue goals as well.
Mike Gianas (Redemption Creative LLC) is a Dallas, Texas-based healthcare marketing consultant with the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations® (NALTO®), the official governing body of locum tenens staffing whose purpose is to provide industry standards, ethical guidelines, continuing education and a collective forum focused on meeting the needs for care at medical facilities nationwide.