Reclaiming Medicine: The Locum Story of Hospitalist Dr. Brandt

In the Interim: Financial Fallout from COVID-19, Upcoming Changes to the Healthcare Landscape, and Tools for Improving Mental Health Access

“In the Interim” is a snapshot of the latest and most relevant news in the locum tenens industry. No repeats, less scrolling, more knowledge. Check out the articles we found most interesting for April’s roundup.

1. Patients’ Perilous Months-Long Waiting for Medicaid Coverage is a Sign of What’s to Come 

States struggle under the weight of untouched Medicaid applications, and patients suffer as they await coverage. For example, Missouri had 72,000 pending Medicaid applications at the end of February and was averaging 119 days to process a single application, which is more than double the maximum turnaround allotted by federal rules. 

Although states are implementing programs to boost Medicaid employment numbers, they must conduct extensive training to cover the variety of qualifiers for different patient populations. Not to mention, the millions of Medicaid enrollees who applied during the pandemic are still pending review – exacerbating the worker shortage.  

(Kaiser Health News, April 4, 2022)   

2. Hospitals are Bolstering Wages. Is it Sustainable?

During COVID-19, many hospitals offered higher wages, sign-on bonuses, and new benefit incentives to combat the surge of turnover. As we enter year three of the pandemic, many hospital and healthcare CEOs comment on the sustainability of these rising labor expenses – many of which have become the new standard. One executive’s philosophy is to “save where we can to spend where we should,” meaning continue to tighten facility costs and reallocate the funds to physician compensation. Others believe that monetary incentives are only a piece of the puzzle and that the other key to retention is improving overall culture and workplace dynamics. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, April 4, 2022)

3. Help Wanted: Building a Pipeline to Address the Children’s Mental Health Provider Workforce Shortage

Mental health issues have been surging among children in the United States for the last few decades. Although the pandemic heightened existing challenges, it also introduced an opportunity for legislators to reform access to mental health care. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, nearly 20% of children experience a mental health issue, but about 80% of them do not receive care. 

Nationally, there is a shortage of mental health providers, so governors have created strategies for recruiting and retaining mental health providers – starting now and evolving into a post-pandemic future. This article explores three identified tools to help bridge the gap between patients and their care. 

(National Governors Association, April 7, 2022)

4. New Laws Let Visitors See Loved Ones in Health Care Facilities, Even in an Outbreak

During the COVID-19 pandemic’s outbreaks, many families were unable to visit their loved ones in health care facilities due to quarantine restrictions – some of those family members passed away without being able to say their goodbyes in person. Now, many states are designating “essential caregivers” and passing “No Patient Left Alone” laws to guarantee visitor access to patients in hospitals. 

Supporters of these laws cite a study published in JAMA Neurology, which reported that even in low COVID transmission regions, the risk of death for nursing home residents with dementia was still 14% higher in 2020 than in 2019. Researchers attribute these statistics to “the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness.” 

(KaiserHealth News, April 8, 2022) 

5. COVID-19 and the Great Resignation: A Catalyst, Not the Cause

By now, we’ve all heard of the “Great Resignation.” But according to the numbers, it was in motion long before the pandemic. 

Today, healthcare is among the top three industries, losing employees at a rapid rate, just behind the hospitality and food service industries. According to the AMA (American Medical Association), 2.6 million healthcare workers quit their jobs from May to September 2021 and 20% of physicians plan to leave their current practice in the next two years. So, what gives? Jessica de Jarnette, MD, pens an insightful article exploring the burdens of hospital administration and the freedom of choosing an alternative path in medicine. 

(KevinMD, April 13, 2022)    

6. Data Shows Long COVID Hitting Women More Than Men 

Approximately 23 million Americans have been diagnosed with “long COVID,” lingering long-term symptoms that last months or years after contracting COVID-19. An analysis from FAIR Health and Morning Consult reveals female-identifying patients making up 60% of privately insured patients marked with long COVID. Researchers are still exploring the apparent gender divide in the data, and clinicians are concerned that racial and ethnic breakdowns of long COVID will also indicate that people of color are disproportionately impacted. 

The Biden administration has responded to these numbers with a governmentwide action plan for long COVID including efforts to stabilize at-risk populations. 

Current COVID-19 stats by state:

(Medical Economics, April 18, 2022)

7. Libraries Across the Country Look to Boost Telehealth Access

Nationwide, libraries are embracing health equity and offering creative solutions to mental health needs. To destigmatize mental health and increase access to telehealth, libraries are designing and implementing private telehealth rooms in their buildings. 

These soundproof booths allow patients a private place from a neutral location to have open dialogue with their physicians. “Some clients and patients, even if they do have a stable phone line, may not have space in their house to have a confidential conversation,” Dianne Farrell of Dayton Metro Library commented. “Just having the space to say, ‘I’m going to the library,’ with no stigma, gives patients the freedom to get the counseling and therapy they need.” 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, April 21, 2022)

8. 200 Rural Hospitals at Risk of Closing in the Next Few Years, Study Finds 

new study notes that 200 rural hospitals may close in the next few years and up to 600 may close in the next 6 years. Low payments from private insurance companies are the major reason for irreparable financial losses – most rural hospitals experienced lower margins on patient services. Although urban hospitals often still generate profit from additional surgeries to absorb the loss, the smaller rural facilities could not compensate. 

Unfortunately, many of these closures are happening in extremely isolated locations, meaning that essential healthcare services will become even less accessible for residents who already travel great distances to receive care. 

(MedPage Today, April 22, 2022)

9. Locums Doc Summit Sets Physicians Up for Success

Dr. Stefanie Freeman, a veteran critical care physician, is hosting a conference on May 20-21 in Houston where physicians can learn the ropes of starting a career in locum tenens. The conference will feature key speakers who are experts in topics such as personal finance, locums travel, and the staffing process. In addition to the in-person conference, there will also be an option to watch conference speeches online, as well as an optional VIP day on May 19 with more key discussions before the conference.

To sign up or to get more information, visit the Locums Doc Summit website.

(MedPage Today, April 22, 2022)

That’s it for this month’s edition of In the Interim. Stay tuned for next month’s roundup of newsworthy articles for locum tenens providers. To stay in the loop on future news, follow us on LinkedIn and sign up for our monthly email newsletter for monthly news and job search tips.