News & Views

Perspectives on the locum tenens industry

In the Interim: Locums Lessons Learned; Provider Comp Recovering from Pandemic Losses; Prioritizing a Solution for Physician Burnout & 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 July's roundup. 

1. Lessons Learned from a Locum Tenens Doc Who’s Been There

Practicing locum tenens is becoming much more popular. In 2012, just 39% of healthcare facilities utilized locum tenens physicians. And in 2019, over 70% of healthcare facility managers reported seeking locums coverage. To explore the “why” behind that jump, MDLinx went straight to the source by interviewing Andrew Wilner, MD, FACP, FAAN.

Wilner is a locum tenens doctor, author, and podcaster who provided personal insight regarding pros and cons of the practice alternative.

(MDLinx, July 1, 2022)  

2. The Forgotten Crisis: A Shortage of Geriatric Doctors in the U.S.

The American Geriatrics Society estimates that one geriatrician can care for about 700 patients. Unfortunately, with 7,300 practicing geriatricians, there are only 1.07 geriatricians for every 10,000 geriatric patients. That's a big gap that isn’t getting any smaller. According to the American Geriatrics Society, there were 384 open positions for geriatric graduate fellowships that went unfilled in 2019.

Right now, residents tend to gravitate toward higher paying specialties, and Medicare is far below private health insurance rates. To ensure we can properly care for our aging population, policymakers need to consider increased recruitment and improved Medicare reimbursement strategies.

(KevinMD, July 04, 2022)   

3. Provider Compensation, Productivity Increased to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The pandemic impacted compensation and productivity across the healthcare sector. First, elective surgeries and medical visits came to a screeching halt. Then, hospitals had to rally staff with bonuses and extra incentives due to years of frontline exposure during COVID-19. Where does that leave us now? 

A Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey published in June 2022 reveals two promising datapoints: median provider compensation increased by 3.7% from 2020-2021, compared to only 0.1% from 2019-2020. Additionally, productivity, which was measured in median total work relative value units (wRVUs), increased by 18.3% from 2020 to 2021, a stark contrast to a 10.2 percent decrease in 2020. 

The compensation and productivity per wRVU vary between surgical and medical specialties. This survey data provides a crucial window into how coding changes and the pandemic have impacted provider compensation. 

(RevCycleIntelligence, July 05, 2022)   

4. Physician Lounges Are Dying: How Hospitals Now Foster Connection

Social connections are essential. In fact, studies show that isolation and loneliness negatively affect healthcare workers. Increased burnout from COVID-19 and telehealth adaptation have only made it more difficult for physicians to find time to engage in “watercooler chat.”  

To bring back the proverbial physician lounge, some hospitals are investing in more creative ways to increase communication and connections between their staff members.  

(Becker’s Hospital Review, July 07, 2022)

5. Inflation Could Cut Health Care Sector Profits by $70B or More This Year

Healthcare isn’t immune to skyrocketing inflation rates currently hammering the economy. Since the industry’s reimbursement rates, labor contracts, and related costs are often set a few years in advance, the impact is yet to come. In fact, current inflation reveals a projected $70 billion profit loss this year.

Global management consultant McKinsey & Co. released a report revealing operational considerations and strategies to avoid large hits to profit margins. Some tips include utilizing technology to cut administrative costs, prioritizing physician well-being, improving supply chains by broadening vendor relationships, and transitioning to a value-based care model.

(Medical Economics, July 12, 2022)   

6. Confronting Health Worker Burnout and Well-being

This article isn’t your average list of burnout statistics; it candidly addresses the disconnect between administrative protections and the strain repeatedly put on healthcare workers. Most importantly, it offers five distinct solutions for improvement.

Burnout is more than lack of support, excessive workloads, and underinvestment in public health infrastructure. Burnout affects mental and physical health, eventually impacting a physician’s ability to practice medicine at all. Thousands of healthcare workers have died from COVID. And over 50% report suffering from insomnia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.

The article calls out a recent Surgeon General Advisory, imploring aggressive action at the federal level to value and protect health workers; reduce administrative burdens; increase access to mental health care; strengthen public investments; and build a supportive culture of well-being.

 (New England Journal of Medicine, July 13, 2022)    

7. Nonprofit Hospitals Hit Hard by Cost Inflation, Need 'Transformational Change,' Finds Fitch

Fitch Rankings’ market update found that providers are reporting significantly lower margins. Due to inflation, increased labor, supply, and capital costs are squeezing nonprofit hospitals. During the late 70s and early 80s, inflation hit the low teens, but hospital reimbursement was structured differently; cost increases were passed to the government and private insurers. In 1983, The Medicare Prospective Payment System introduced reimbursement on a fixed amount. Now, times have changed. 

Although providers may attempt to secure a higher rate, Fitch’s market update projects that Medicare and Medicaid rate adjustments cannot offset inflation. These findings suggest that business models need to reevaluate, and hospitals may have to consider rate hikes, strategies to improve productivity, and creative cost-cuts. 

(Healthcare Finance, July 21, 2022)   

8. Hospital Outpatient Providers Could See $6.2B Pay Bump in 2023 

The new rural emergency hospital designation from CMS suggests removing acute care inpatient services to help remote facilities stay profitable and assigning special coding to decrease coinsurance costs and facility payments.  

This proposed rule would require Medicare to pay additional percentages on outpatient and ambulatory surgical services and extend behavioral telehealth reimbursements, resulting in a $6.2 billion increase in Medicare reimbursements. 

(USA Business Reviews, sourced on July 26, 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.