In the Interim | Physicians Rethink Annual Visit, More Women Becoming Physicians, ‘Medical Netflix’ & More

“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 February’s roundup.   

1. Rural providers optimistic about financial stability, plan to expand services, Wipfli survey finds 

A recent survey conducted by Wipfli revealed that rural healthcare providers are maintaining a positive outlook on their financial futures even though they face challenges like high inflation, dwindling COVID-19 relief funds, and flat reimbursement rates. The survey included responses from 106 healthcare organizations across 26 states. The survey showed that these providers are looking to bolster their financial health through strategies such as expanding service lines, enhancing revenue cycle management, and renegotiating payer contracts. Additionally, there’s a growing interest in adopting digital tools and technologies like artificial intelligence. Widespread digital transformation is still on the horizon, though. Organizations have concerns over cybersecurity, which is why those surveyed claimed to have made a 70% increase in their cybersecurity investment.  

(Fierce Healthcare, Feb. 5, 2024) 

2. ABIM: Most internal medicine docs choosing newer certification option over 10-year exam 

Most board-certified internal medicine physicians now prefer the longitudinal knowledge assessment (LKA) over the traditional 10-year recertification exam, according to a viewpoint published by the American Board of Internal Medicine in JAMA. According to the report, 80% of ABIM-certified doctors chose this new method, which covers various subspecialties, because it allows for a more flexible certification process. The LKA offers significant advantages over the previous recertification exam, including the ability to take the assessment remotely, periodic testing that aligns with current medical practices, and potential cost savings, alongside contributing to improved patient outcomes and healthcare equity. 

(Fierce Healthcare, Feb. 5, 2024) 

3. Telepsychiatry will continue to grow – and become the house call of yesteryear 

Telepsychiatry has emerged as a rapidly growing field within the healthcare industry, poised to redefine mental health services by offering the convenience and accessibility of the traditional house call through modern technology. With the increasing acceptance of telehealth, telepsychiatry has gained momentum, particularly in bridging the gap for mental health services in rural and underserved communities. This growth is fueled by technological advancements, changing regulatory landscapes, and a growing recognition of the importance of mental healthcare. Patients benefit from reduced wait times and the elimination of travel barriers, which helps increase engagement in their mental healthcare. Telepsychiatry also offers a solution to the mental health provider shortage by enabling specialists to reach a broader patient base. As telepsychiatry continues to evolve, it represents a significant step toward integrating mental healthcare more seamlessly into primary healthcare systems, ensuring that individuals receive the comprehensive care they need. 

(Healthcare IT News, Feb. 5, 2024) 

4. Nearly all doctors feel burnout, but many are encouraged by potential of AI, survey says 

A recent survey commissioned by Athenahealth revealed over 90% of US physicians frequently experience burnout, primarily due to excessive administrative tasks like paperwork, leading to considerations of leaving the medical field by over 60% of respondents. Physicians are spending an average of 15 extra hours weekly, termed as “pajama time,” to manage their workloads, with 60% feeling they lack sufficient in-person time with patients. But 83% believe that artificial intelligence could offer solutions, particularly in streamlining administrative tasks and enhancing diagnoses accuracy. Despite concerns about the potential loss of human touch and AI’s role in diagnoses, twice as many physicians see AI as part of the solution rather than the problem, according to the survey. Around 37% of those optimistic about AI believe the healthcare field is progressing positively, emphasizing the need for technology to alleviate administrative burdens and allow physicians to refocus on patient care.  

(CNBC, Feb. 6, 2024) 

5. American College of Emergency Physicians launches ‘medical Netflix’ 

The American College of Emergency Physicians has introduced an AI-powered learning platform for physicians and emergency medical professionals, designed for continuing education and quick access to best practices in emergency medicine. Launched in partnership with Evermed, the platform features over 3,000 pieces of content, including lectures, podcasts, and webinars, in a user-friendly, “Netflix-style” format. It offers customizable and personalized learning experiences, with content averaging 30 minutes in length, many of which are eligible for continuing education credits. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Feb. 6, 2024) 

6. 3 steps to make meaningful, lasting physician well-being changes 

In the quest for sustainable improvements in physician well-being, three essential steps emerge: reducing administrative burdens rather than adding to them, engaging frontline physicians who bear the brunt of patient care, and capitalizing on easily achievable victories to foster a culture of well-being. These strategies, outlined in the American Medical Association (AMA) STEPS Forward® playbook on wellness-centered leadership, aim to address the pervasive issue of physician burnout and enhance both individual well-being and patient care quality. Acknowledging the critical link between physician well-being and patient outcomes, healthcare leaders should prioritize the reduction of administrative burdens and engage frontline physicians in dialogue to identify and address sources of burnout. By embracing small yet impactful changes, organizations can cultivate environments conducive to physician satisfaction and the broader goal of restoring joy in medicine. 

(The American Medical Association, Feb. 6, 2024) 

7. Telehealth plus Locum Tenens: Building Efficiency into Healthcare Revenue Streams 

Healthcare organizations face mounting pressure to balance an increase in provider pay with operational costs. Despite notable innovations, the healthcare industry still grapples with inefficiencies that costs billions annually. Telehealth and locum tenens clinicians offer promising solutions, improving patient access and care continuity. The success of these clinicians depends on optimizing billing practices, which can be complex. Effective billing stewardship is crucial and will require attention to billing methodologies, codes, and enrollment processes. Expert guidance can help maximize revenue, accelerate billing, and streamline operations. Mastering billing practices for telehealth and locum tenens providers is essential for long-term financial sustainability and operational efficiency.  

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Feb. 8, 2024) 

8. 2 big wins on physician credentialing that will support well-being 

The National Association of Medical Staff Service (NAMSS) and Massachusetts health leaders have taken significant steps to support physician well-being by removing stigmatizing questions about mental health and substance use disorders from credentialing applications. These changes aim to address barriers that prevent physicians from seeking help and contribute to burnout within the healthcare workforce. The American Medical Association has commended these efforts and is advocating for similar changes nationwide to prioritize physician health and wellness. NAMSS now recommends using revised questions focusing on a physician’s current state rather than past diagnoses or treatments. 

(The American Medical Association, Feb. 9, 2024) 

9. Physicians rethink the annual visit

Physicians are reevaluating the necessity of annual physical exams amid concerns over long wait times for primary care appointments and conflicting evidence regarding their efficacy for asymptomatic patients. While traditional exams typically include vital sign checks and blood tests, a growing number of doctors are questioning whether these routine visits are essential, especially for young, healthy individuals. Instead, there’s a shift towards personalized approaches, focusing on patients’ health goals and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. Some medical practices are redesigning exams, incorporating pre-visit surveys and technology to prioritize patient needs and offer virtual care when appropriate, potentially alleviating primary care physician shortages. Despite differing opinions, advocates of routine exams argue they can detect hidden conditions and provide reassurance, particularly for older patients or those at risk of chronic diseases, according to recent recommendations from the Society of General Internal Medicine. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Feb. 20, 2024) 

10. More women than ever are becoming doctors. Here’s why there are still so few.

More women than ever before are studying to practice medicine, but most working physicians in the country are men. Female medical students have outnumbered their male counterparts in recent years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. As of the 2023-2024 school year, women make up more than 55 percent of those studying to become a MD. This trend in more women physicians has steadily increased over the past decade. In 2007, 28 percent of practicing physicians were women, while in most recent data in 2021 says 37 percent of the physicians were women. Experts point to two main reasons why there are still fewer female physicians practicing. They say the physician workforce hasn’t caught up yet with the makeup of student bodies. They also claim female physicians have higher attrition rates because of workload, work-life balance, and because of sexism in the workplace. That sexism comes in the form of lower pay and fewer promotions. 

(The Hill, Feb. 22, 2024) 

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.