Provider Spotlight: Dr. Mandel, ER Maverick & Locum Tenens Physician

In the Interim: The Latest on AI in Medicine, Telehealth, Physician Shortages & Amazon Clinic

“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 August’s roundup.   

1. HHS expanding medical residencies in rural areas    

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has granted $11 million to 15 healthcare organizations through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish new rural residency programs, address healthcare workforce shortages, and improve access to care. HHS highlighted that around 70% of primary medical shortage areas are in rural regions, contributing to healthcare challenges for rural Americans. Notably, over half of rural U.S. counties lack hospital obstetric services. As part of this initiative, three awards will create family medicine residency programs with specialized obstetrical training in rural areas to enhance maternal healthcare access.

Recipients of these awards will receive up to $750,000 for rural residency programs, covering accreditation, curriculum development, faculty and resident recruitment, and program development consultation. They will also gain access to guidance and resources from the HRSA-funded Rural Residency Planning and Development Technical Assistance Center.  

(Healthcare Finance, July 31, 2023) 

2. The world is vying for healthcare workers 

The global competition for healthcare talent is intensifying, with some countries gaining the upper hand over others because of more aggressive recruitment tactics. Australia stands out as an aggressive healthcare talent poacher due to attractive pay, recruitment strategies, and lifestyle. Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a green card backlog, hindering international recruitment efforts. Some countries are easing barriers to entry, such as the U.K. introducing a new visa category for healthcare workers. 

However, such recruitment can harm countries with fragile healthcare systems, prompting measures like Zimbabwe’s threat to criminalize active healthcare worker recruitment. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for responsible recruitment practices, and some nations are curbing healthcare worker emigration. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Aug. 1, 2023) 

3. Cost, conditions and more: What to know about Amazon’s telemedicine visits as the service goes nationwide 

Amazon has expanded its virtual clinic to offer video telemedicine visits across all 50 states. Customers can access the clinic through Amazon’s website or app, compare prices, and select a telemedicine provider from distinct options. The virtual clinic was initially introduced with text message-based consultations, still offered in 34 states.

While the new video telemedicine option is now available nationwide and in Washington, D.C. The clinic covers more than 30 common health conditions, from sinus infections to sexual health issues, birth control, and emergency contraception. The cost for messaging-based consultations averages $35, while video visits are priced at $75, offering a more affordable alternative to in-person visits for patients without insurance coverage. 

(ABC News, Aug. 2, 2023)  

4. Age, Residence Type, and Practice Setting Affect Telehealth Use 

A recent study has unveiled a significant uptick in telehealth utilization spanning 2019 to 2021. Numerous factors influenced the outcomes, including patient age, location, and provider practice setting. The surge in telehealth adoption, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, highlights the imperative for bolstered reimbursement policies. Notably, cancer patients contending with both cancer and COVID-19 concurrently found telehealth adoption to be a proactive risk-reduction strategy.

The research looked at the ramifications of patient and provider-centric factors on oncologic telehealth visits. The findings spotlighted a progression from minimal telehealth utilization of less than 0.01% in 2019 to a remarkable 14% in 2021. Among the determinants, age and non-rural residency emerged as pivotal influencers. With telehealth’s evident advantages and non-redundant nature, the exploration of reimbursement strategies has gained prominence. Furthermore, the productive integration of telehealth in cancer treatment fortifies its long-term viability. 

(mHealthIntelligence, Aug. 2, 2023) 

5. EHR, prescriptions, and values all contributed to physician burnout during COVID-19 pandemic 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, physician burnout was exacerbated by increased electronic health records (EHR) workload. A study surveying 627 physicians in 2020 revealed 50% experienced burnout symptoms due to several reasons. The contributing factors were EHR-related stress, prescription reauthorization messages, lack of alignment with clinic leaders, practicing under 15 years, and inadequate sleep.    

The University of California San Diego Health System study found that subjective EHR work stress correlated with burnout. Specialties like psychiatry, COVID-intensive fields, and primary care reported higher burnout rates. The study emphasizes the need for support, improved scheduling, and adequate sleep to mitigate burnout. 

(Contemporary OB/GYN, Aug. 2, 2023) 

6. How hospitals are using AI to fight doctor burnout

Doctors at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, use the DAX app powered by Microsoft’s Nuance division to alleviate administrative burdens and combat burnout. The AI-powered app transcribes doctors’ and patients’ interactions, generating clinical summaries for electronic health records. This app eliminates the need for doctors to manually type notes during patient visits, freeing up more time for patient care.  

Leveraging AI to streamline administrative tasks has the potential to cut healthcare costs significantly, with estimates suggesting that hospitals could reduce expenses by 5% to 11% over the next five years. Despite concerns about job displacement and patient concerns about AI diagnosis, the responsible use of AI in healthcare is being pursued through industry collaboration and the development of safety measures.

(CNBC, Aug. 7, 2023) 

7. Texas continues to see a shortage of physicians despite decades of progress 

Texas is grappling with a shortage of physicians, contributing to extended appointment wait times and healthcare challenges for the growing population. Despite progress, according to the Texas Medical Association, the state has 204.6 physicians per 100,000 people, lower than the national average of 245.5 per 100,000. 

The issue is especially pronounced in rural areas, where limited access to care persists, prompting patients to plan appointments for months. While the state has made strides with new medical schools and residency programs, there’s still work to ensure a stable future for physicians and patients across the state. 

(KVUE, Aug. 8, 2023) 

8. Hospitals focus on integrating AI as market cools

As healthcare Artificial Intelligence (AI) funding experiences a decline in 2023, hospital leaders are focusing on selecting AI vendors that can seamlessly integrate into their existing infrastructure. The healthcare AI vendor landscape has become saturated, with over half of the 1,500 vendors emerging within the last seven years. While AI-driven solutions promise to enhance clinical and operational efficiency and early disease detection, investments in workforce education, cloud infrastructure, workflow redesign, and care navigation are crucial for successful integration.  

Despite the surge in AI innovation, healthcare AI funding is projected to decrease by 28% YoY by the end of 2023, with startups facing heightened competition from tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. However, the challenge remains ensuring that AI tools align seamlessly with clinicians’ workflows and established systems for optimal impact.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Aug. 9, 2023) 

9. The future of telemedicine: Is it here to stay? 

Telemedicine has fundamentally shifted healthcare, extending beyond doctor-patient interactions to reshape sectors. This transformation is fueled by technological advancements and supportive policies enabling telemedicine trends. Technology evolves with improved medical software, cloud-based solutions for data transfer, enhanced cybersecurity, and AI/ML tools for analysis and clinical decisions. Forty-three states and Washington, D.C. have enacted parity laws to ensure telehealth coverage, like in-person consultations.  

The impact of telemedicine on healthcare delivery is substantial, integrating digital components and shifting toward value-based care. The move from fee-for-service to value-based models is propelled by digital health techs like remote patient monitoring and mobile medical apps, aligning with value-based care principles of outcomes, satisfaction, and cost reduction. Despite varying adoption, telemedicine will remain crucial, driving advancements and a more efficient, patient-centered healthcare system in the post-COVID era.

(MultiView, Aug.8, 2023) 

10. Can care guidance save rural hospitals?  

Rural hospitals in the United States face significant challenges due to ongoing closures, jeopardizing healthcare access for many Americans in remote areas. About 300 rural hospitals in the U.S. are at immediate risk of closure, and over 600, or 30% of all rural hospitals, are at some risk due to economic conditions. Rural hospitals are turning to innovative care guidance programs focusing on proactive interaction with patients to understand and resolve care barriers before they become costly issues. 

Care guidance extends beyond patient navigation, offering solutions for patient satisfaction, retention, better care, reduced readmissions, and shorter hospital stays. Care guidance programs aim to ensure patients receive timely, appropriate care by proactively addressing their non-clinical barriers. By optimizing care guidance, rural hospitals can improve efficiency, reduce resource allocation, alleviate non-clinical tasks, and increase revenue.  

(Medical Economics, Aug.21, 2023) 

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.