In the Interim: AI Replacing Docs?; Hawaii Joins IMLC; Bypassing US Residency & A New Telehealth Certification

“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. New Law Allows International Medical Graduates to Bypass US Residency 

A new Tennessee law and American Medical Association (AMA) measure aims to simplify medical licensing for international medical graduates (IMGs) in the US. The law enables experienced IMGs to obtain a temporary license in Tennessee without completing US residency, provided they meet specific requirements. These include demonstrating competency, completing three years of postgraduate training abroad, or practicing as a medical professional for at least three years outside the US. IMGs must also secure an employment offer from a Tennessee healthcare provider with an accredited residency program. After two years of good standing, physicians will receive a full license. 

This law streamlines the process and offers opportunities for experienced international doctors to contribute to Tennessee’s healthcare workforce. The AMA also supports recognizing certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, further simplifying the licensing process nationwide. 

(Medscape, June 26, 2023) 

2. Hawaii takes steps in addressing doctor shortage joining Interstate Medical Licensure Compact 

Hawaii addressed its doctor shortage by passing Senate Bill 674, allowing the state to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). The compact simplifies how licensed physicians in member states will practice medicine in Hawaii, eliminating costly and time-consuming barriers. The Hawaii Medical Association (HMA) voiced its support for the compact, recognizing its potential to alleviate the physician shortage. 

By entering the IMLC, Hawaii now enables physicians to practice in the state, either in person or through telehealth options. Other states that have joined the compact have experienced at least a 10% increase in their physician workforce. This move is a significant step toward improving healthcare access in Hawaii and attracting more physicians to the state. 

(KITV News, July 3, 2023) 

3. Payers Could See 7% Spike in Healthcare Costs in 2024 

Healthcare costs are predicted to rise by up to 7% in 2024, exceeding the past two years’ increases, according to a new PwC report. Factors contributing to this increase include labor shortages, higher drug prices, and new agreements between payers and providers. Inflationary effects from contracted healthcare providers and the growing cost of specialty drugs drive the higher medical cost trend. Additionally, workforce shortages in the healthcare industry are leading to increased salaries and higher reimbursement demands, exacerbating the impact of inflation on healthcare spending.

Amidst these challenges, there are some cost-containment measures. National health plans have demonstrated better cost management and lower cost trends, helping to mitigate overall medical cost increases. However, the rising prices of new and existing drugs, along with factors such as Medicaid redeterminations and the Price Transparency Rule, will continue to impact healthcare costs in varying ways. 

(Healthcare Finance, July 5, 2023) 

4. New Telehealth Certification Available to Healthcare Professionals 

The American Heart Association (AHA) has introduced its first individual certification. Certified Professional by the American Heart Association – Telehealth, was created in response to the significant increase in telehealth usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The certification shows the AHA’s commitment to supporting healthcare professionals in demonstrating AHA’s commitment to telehealth and ensuring the highest standard of care in this evolving field. Telehealth has the potential to transform the healthcare industry by improving accessibility, efficiency, and patient satisfaction, while also addressing issues like physician burnout. The certification, offered through the AHA’s Intelligo Professional Education Hub™, aims to standardize training, enhance skills, and improve patient outcomes through the integration of telehealth. Licensed medical professionals can obtain this AHA certification if they have completed prerequisite telehealth education. 

(American Heart Association, July 5, 2023)  

5. It’s Time to Expect More from EHRs 

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have become a fundamental part of healthcare practice, but present challenges. EHRs have been associated with clinician burnout due to their time-consuming administrative tasks. Additionally, interoperability issues can hinder the seamless sharing of patient data among healthcare providers. Reliability concerns arise from cyberattacks and frequent system downtime. Long implementation times and prohibitive costs further complicate the adoption and optimization of EHRs. 

However, by adopting a human-centered design approach, integrating advanced solutions, and prioritizing security and reliability, healthcare organizations can alleviate these pain points and improve the usability and value of EHR systems, leading to better clinical outcomes and enhanced clinician wellness. 

(Medical Economics, July 6, 2023) 

6. Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Physicians? 

A recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) could eliminate around 300 million jobs, particularly those requiring advanced education. AI’s ability to quickly and accurately memorize and process vast amounts of information poses challenges for medical students.  

However, AI can also be a valuable tool for doctors, performing tasks like summarizing medical records, calculating treatment options, and providing prognoses. While AI may handle certain aspects of patient care, it cannot replace the human touch and compassion that physicians offer through forming therapeutic alliances with patients. As AI integrates into healthcare, those who practice the art of medicine with empathy and insight will always be in demand. 

(KevinMD, July 6, 2023) 

7. Many Telehealth Appointments see Fewer Follow-ups Than Office Visits, Study Finds 

New research from Epic shows patients who see a specialist in person are likelier to have a follow-up appointment in person than those who use telehealth. The study analyzed millions of records from various medical specialties and found that telehealth appointments in 16 of 24 specialties were less likely to lead to a second appointment within 90 days.  

The most significant disparity was mental health; patients who saw a doctor in person were 30% more likely to have a follow-up appointment. However, the gap between office visits and telehealth appointments was narrower in primary care. Telehealth offers more options for various specialties, but it may only sometimes lead to in-person visits for follow-up care. 

(Chief Healthcare Executive, July 7, 2023) 

8. Telehealth Use Fell Nationally, in all 4 US Regions in April 

The FAIR Health Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker reported a decrease in telehealth use across the US in April, following a rise in the previous month. National telehealth use dropped 5.4%, and all four US census regions saw declines ranging from 4.7% to 6.8%. Mental health conditions remained the most prevalent telehealth diagnoses, while acute respiratory diseases and infections decreased in share. Despite the decline, experts believe telehealth will continue to be widely used in the healthcare industry. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) extended COVID-era waivers for remote prescribing of controlled substances via telehealth through November in response to industry requests. 


9. Digging Into the Data to Cut EHR Burdens that Drive Burnout 

Physician burnout is a pressing issue, with studies showing that for every eight hours of patient care, physicians spend over five hours in the EHR. To address this, the American Medical Association (AMA) has funded research to explore ways to reduce EHR burdens and improve workflow, teamwork, and resource allocation.  

The program has awarded grants to nine organizations, focusing on various EHR-use topics such as primary care physician EHR inbox prioritization, team support for medication orders, and physician time spent on EHR during paid time off. The goal is to transform EHR technology into an asset for medical care and combat physician burnout. 

(American Medical Association, July 11, 2023) 

10. Physician Burnout is A Threat, no Different From the Spread of a Virus—Here’s How to Fix It 

Physician burnout is a significant and growing problem in healthcare, impacting patient care and contributing to a shortage of primary care physicians. Around 42 percent of physicians suffer from burnout, with factors such as hurried visits, reduced autonomy, and excessive documentation workload contributing to their frustration.

A shift towards a value-based care system could help physicians who would now be incentivized based on patient outcomes rather than the number of visits, allowing them to spend more time with each patient and focus on delivering better care. By adopting value-based care, physicians can work in interdisciplinary teams, including social workers, pharmacists, care managers, and nurse practitioners, which improves patient outcomes and reduces the burden of documentation requirements.  

(KevinMD, July 15, 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.