Locum Tenens Staffing: A Solution for Physician Demand

by Allegra Hamilton | May 27, 2023 | locum tenens staffing
Locum Tenens Staffing: A Solution for Physician Demand

The healthcare industry is experiencing a shift in the way medical services are delivered, with locum tenens staffing emerging as a viable solution to address the challenges of a worsening shortage of practitioners. Temporary physicians provide crucial coverage for healthcare facilities, bridging gaps in access to care and ensuring the continuity of medical services. Recent studies have shed light on the utilization trends, competence and cost-effectiveness of locum tenens physicians, challenging preconceived notions of inferior performance and highlighting their positive impact on patient outcomes.

Locum Tenens Utilization

Many locum tenens physicians are employed by small and medium-sized hospitals in rural and suburban regions where the pool of permanent physicians remains limited. Though primary care physicians are vital in ensuring access to essential healthcare services, these underserved regions struggle to attract and retain permanent hires.

Locum tenens are in high demand in urban settings, frequently enlisted to address staffing shortfalls that emerge in hospitals and medical centers. In fact, up to 80% of locum placements aim to fill gaps between hires in larger medical centers with high patient volumes.

Though once locum work was dominated by generalists, in recent years, an increasing number of specialists are attracted to the flexibility such postings offer. Radiology, anesthesiology, dermatology and psychiatry are among the specialties most in demand. A rise in the number of urgent care centers and walk-in clinics has contributed to a higher distribution of locum physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in urban areas.

The impact of locum tenens physicians also extends to the realm of government healthcare. Organizations such as the Veterans Health Administration deploy locum tenens physicians within Veterans Affairs hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities.

Locum Tenens Physicians – Quality of Care

A recent Journal of American Medicine investigation examined the competence of physicians in temporary placements by comparing the 30-day mortality rates of patients treated by locum tenens and non-locum tenens physicians. The findings revealed no significant differences in mortality rates between the two groups, indicating that locum tenens physicians are just as competent as their permanent counterparts. Multiple data suggest that healthcare companies who regularly focus on locum tenens staffing produce lower mortality rates. This suggests the importance of strategies that leverage the advantages of physicians in these roles.

lucum tenens staffing

Costs Associated with Locum Tenens Physicians

Temporary physicians may initially face challenges in efficiently (and therefore cost-effectively) delivering care. This is largely the result of a learning curve as new physicians try to keep up despite limited familiarity with specific healthcare institutions – but that’s the case with any new hire, whether locum or permanent. Healthcare organizations that provide comprehensive orientation and training programs to help locum tenens physicians quickly adapt to new environments, understand workflows and become familiar with policies and procedures may avoid loss of revenue altogether. And a study by The American Journal of Medical Quality found that locum tenens staffing led to significantly lower 30-day readmission rates, suggesting that any potential cost differences may be offset by this reduction.

As the demand for locum tenens physicians continues to rise, healthcare organizations must incorporate locum tenens utilization into their long-term staffing strategies. By proactively identifying potential gaps in staffing, organizations can ensure seamless transitions and maintain uninterrupted patient care.

Establishing long-term relationships with reputable locum tenens staffing agencies ensures access to a pool of qualified and vetted candidates. Such collaborations maintain a high standard of care while reducing administrative burdens associated with constant provider searches.

MASC medical recruiters

By embracing the potential of locum tenens, healthcare organizations can not only address staffing demands but also enhance patient outcomes and improve access to care, particularly in underserved areas. Temporary physicians offer a valuable solution to the staffing challenges faced by healthcare organizations. Studies have demonstrated that locum tenens physicians are equally competent as their permanent counterparts and contribute positively to patient outcomes. By implementing effective strategies such as onboarding and integration, building partnerships with locum tenens staffing agencies and engaging in long-term strategic planning, healthcare organizations can maximize the potential of locum tenens physicians and create a healthcare system that is adaptable, responsive and patient-centered.


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