Medical Practices Embrace Locum Tenens Option

Written by on November 1, 2017 in Features, Slide - No comments
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Medical facilities are finding it takes much longer to find a staff physician these days.  In many cases it can take a year or longer.  So what do practices and hospitals do in the interim?  The answer is simple: increase the hours of your staff providers, cut services or use locum tenens.

A locum tenens physician is a quick answer for many practices throughout the country when time is of the essence.  Before the locum doctor arrives for the first shift, the practice should have a credentialing package in hand with copies of the appropriate medical license, curriculum vitae and other supporting documents as required by the practice.  Generally professional liability insurance is provided for the locum doctor or PA by their agency.  This process can be accomplished by email attachments cutting the process time by weeks.

Here are a few situations in which a practice might use a locum physician.

  • staff physician becomes sick
  • maternity leave
  • vacation
  • business obligations
  • staff leaves with short or no notice
  • seasonal increase of patients

It certainly is important to be able to staff a new position or facility while a permanent physician is recruited.  Many practice owners choose to close their practices if they can’t work, leaving their patients without their routine care.  By having a substitute or locum doctor or provider contracted for, your patients are not inconvenienced and their medical requirements are met.

A locum tenens agency should be able to furnish a qualified provider in the form of a medical doctor or physician assistant, depending on the specialty, with reasonable notification.   Many practices are even hiring a locum provider to work a set weekly or monthly schedule enabling the main physician to become more productive, treat more patients and create practice options.  If you are a male doctor it may enhance your practice to consider having a female doctor or physician assistant work in the practice a few days per week or several days a month filling a locum’s role.  This could increase the procedures you provide your patient base and certainly add a comfort level to many patients that want a same gender relationship with their doctor.  Many solo physicians find they become more comfortable having a second provider working with them on-going or a few shifts a week.  They have time to have an out of the office meeting with their banker, insurance agent, attorney or a lunch with their spouse.   Having a locum doctor may add more expertise to your practice in the form of coding or procedures that you are comfortable with but are reluctant to perform.  Usually a staffing firm can provide continuity with the locum provider in a short period of time.

Also, in today’s competitive healthcare industry more and more medical executives include locum tenens as an integral part of their master staffing plans. This way they can maintain moderate physician staffing and bring in a locum physician or two during traditional periods of peak volume. Often this is more cost-effective than maintaining peak staffing levels and paying for a lot of down time – in addition to employee benefits and physician perks.

Used strategically, locum tenens physicians can help you attract and keep more of your staff, which helps your facility or group retain more patients and produce higher revenue.  Because a locum physician generally works in more environments and facilities than the average U.S. physician, and because his or her training and experience undergo perpetual scrutiny, that physician is more likely to be up-to-date on the latest technologies and procedures than his or her staff physician counterpart.

Other advantages of having a locum physician work consistently in your practice reach beyond patient care and the convenience of sharing a work load.  When it becomes time to sell your practice and that time will come, you will find that your practice value is greatly increased by having a locum or second provider on staff.  As a solo doctor, you are the practice.  However with a second provider or locum doctor, you now have a business capable of generating income in your absence.  Conventional arguments suggest that your practice will increase in value by 20% or more by having an agreement in place with locum staffing agency and are using these options routinely.

I think you will find that when a locum tenens physician or physician assistant is used, the practice will want to implement this option as their main short term provider solution.

Philip Driver is the CEO of Physician Solutions, North Carolina’s oldest and leading Locum Tenens agency and the publisher of Med Monthly magazine.  

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