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

In the Interim: Practice Consolidation Causing Concerns; Healthcare Staffing Growth & AMA President Says ‘Healthcare System in Crisis’

“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 June’s roundup.   

1. This Type of Physician Could Fill the Gap in Rural Communities 

Osteopathic physicians (DOs) offer a potential solution to the shortage of primary care doctors in rural healthcare facilities. Between 1990 to 2022, the number of DOs has quadrupled from less than 25,000 to over 110,000, with over half working in primary care. Osteopathic medical schools, often located in rural states, contribute to graduates choosing rural primary care. 

A KFF Health News analysis highlighted a decline in MDs practicing outside urban counties in Iowa dropped 19%, while the number of DOs increased by 29%. DOs represent a sizable proportion of rural Iowa physicians, and this trend is expected to continue. DOs and MDs receive comparable training and can practice the full range of medicine. Despite representing only 10% of physicians, studies show that DOs achieve similar outcomes to MDs.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, June 5, 2023) 

2. For Providers, Consolidation May Be Key to Staying Afloat, Experts Tell Senators 

Consolidation is reshaping the healthcare industry, causing concerns for independent healthcare systems. Large health systems wield the power to potentially limit access through tiered health insurance products. A recent Senate Finance Committee hearing discussed consolidation’s impact, including insurer and pharmacy benefit manager mergers. Addressing consolidation would require better antitrust enforcement, addressing site-neutral billing, and the 340B drug pricing program, experts say.

As private equity’s influence grows, there will be benefits and drawbacks. Consolidation can have a positive effect on patient care. The American Hospital Association (AHA) argues mergers can help struggling hospitals remain open. Still, some experts argue consolidation makes healthcare less affordable for many Americans, with prices growing after merging by 14%.

(Fierce Healthcare, June 9, 2023) 

3. Putting Joy Back into Healthcare; 5 Ways EHRs Can Alleviate Clinician Burnout 

Clinician burnout is costing the US healthcare system $4.6 billion annually and poses a threat as many healthcare workers are considering leaving the profession. Despite the Department of Health and Human Services’ strategy to reduce Electronic Health Record (EHR) burden, clinicians still feel overwhelmed by administrative-focused EHRs, spending double the time on manual EHR tasks compared to patient care. 

To combat burnout, EHRs should collaborate with clinicians to automate data assimilation and prioritize efficient documentation. Data integration would save time and reduce errors. EHRs can adapt to clinicians’ needs, reducing interruptions and supporting workflow. Eliminating planned and unplanned EHR downtime is vital to prevent disruptions in patient care. 

(MedCity News, June 9, 2023) 

4. The Growing Landscape of Healthcare Staffing and Unlocking Opportunities 

The “Healthcare Staffing Market” report by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting (IMARC) Group analyzed the global industry trends and forecasts for 2023-2028. The market, valued at $39.2 billion in 2022, is projected to reach $56.9 billion by 2028 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3%. The demand for healthcare staffing services is driven by factors like the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases and the shortage of healthcare professionals. Growing awareness of temporary employment and job-related incentives also contributes to market growth. Key players in the market are investing in advanced technologies and pursuing mergers and acquisitions to expand their offerings.

The IMARC report provides a detailed analysis of market segments, including travel nurse staffing, per diem nurse staffing, locum tenens staffing, and allied healthcare staffing. The report also examines the impact of COVID-19 on the market and highlights major players such as Adecco Group, AMN Healthcare Services Inc., CHG Management Inc, Cross Country Healthcare Inc., and others. 

(Digital Journal, June 9, 2023) 

5. Can We Finally Realize the Promise of EHRs? 

The widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) has digitized medical records, unlocking vast amounts of clinical data. Health systems must harness the power of big data, reduce fragmentation, and empower clinicians with solutions that prioritize clinical skills over administrative work. Automation and advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics can revolutionize healthcare, improving patient care while reducing wasteful spending. 

The federal government’s allocation of $27 billion through the HITECH Act has promoted the use of technology in healthcare, with more than 95% of hospitals and 85% of physician practices currently utilizing EHRs. However, proprietary standards and administrative waste, especially in implementation review processes, remain significant problems. By applying innovative technologies to EHR frameworks and focusing on value-added processes, healthcare can achieve better patient care in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. 

(Medical Economics, June 14, 2023) 

6. What’s Driving Physician Practice Acquisition?

A new report by the American Hospital Association (AHA) explores the factors driving physician practice acquisition. Financial challenges, payer policies, and regulatory requirements push physicians toward practice acquisition. Survey findings reveal 94% of physicians struggle with operating their practices because of issues with insurer policies, public payer regulations, and low reimbursement rates. 

These challenges and administrative burdens increase physicians’ burnout, leading them to seek alternative practice settings for relief and fair reimbursement. 

(Health Leaders Media, June 15, 2023) 

7. New American Medical Association President Says ‘We Have a Healthcare System in Crisis’ 

Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), declared that the healthcare system is in crisis. COVID-19 stress and rampant misinformation rank among the top challenges for physicians, Ehrenfeld says. Burnout, soaring medical costs, and LGBTQ-targeted legislation are also highlighted concerns. Ehrenfeld criticized regulators for disregarding science and imposing barriers to medical care. 

Dr. Ehrenfeld aims to promote health equity for underserved groups and serve as a role model for young doctors and his two sons. He encourages individuals to pursue their dreams and not let anything stand in the way.  

(CBS News, June 15, 2023) 

8. Digital Health Should Brace For ‘Significant Amount of Churn’ As Hospitals Reconsider Covid-era Tech Contracts 

Many COVID-era contracts between hospitals and digital health companies are nearing expiration, prompting hospitals to seek replacements for telemedicine and remote patient monitoring platforms. A Panda Health survey found that 88 out of 100 hospital executives currently utilize telemedicine technology, but half expressed dissatisfaction with their current platforms. 

Around 30% of telemedicine contracts and 33% of remote patient monitoring contracts are set to expire by the end of 2024, potentially impacting numerous hospitals. With increased knowledge and higher expectations, the industry faces a considerable potential for churn in various digital health product categories adopted during the pandemic. 

(Fierce Healthcare, June 15, 2023) 

9. US Senators Support Permanent Telehealth Access Through Legislation

A bipartisan group of 60 US senators has reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, aiming to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth. The bill seeks to make virtual care allowances permanent, removing geographic restrictions and increasing the range of professionals who can implement telehealth. It also includes provisions to waive initial in-person visits for mental healthcare and increase data requirements on telehealth’s impact on care quality. The effort has garnered support from 150+ organizations, including AARP and the American Telemedicine Association.  

In addition to the CONNECT for Health Act, other legislation like the Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act has been introduced to enhance access to telehealth services. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the effectiveness of telehealth, leading lawmakers to incorporate specific provisions of the CONNECT for Health Act into law. 

(mHEATLH INTELLIGENCE, June 16, 2023) 

10. Physicians call for more regulation of health insurers using AI 

Medical policy regulators need more power over insurance companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze prior authorization (PA) requests for patients. Insurance companies increasingly use AI in their review processes for PA. Still, the AMA emphasized the need for a thorough and fair process that includes human review by physicians and healthcare professionals with expertise in the service under review.  

The AMA highlights the ongoing challenges of the prior authorization process, stating that it is overused, costly, inefficient, and causes delays in patient care. A ProPublica review found health insurer Cigna denied more than 300,000 claims in two-months using AI, with doctors spending an average of 1.2 seconds on each case. The AMA’s new policy emphasizes the importance of human intelligence in decision-making by calling for health insurers to require human examination of patient records before denying care.  

(Medical Economics, June 19, 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 and sign up for our monthly email newsletter for monthly news and job search tips.