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

In the Interim: D.C. Debt Ceiling Drama Impacts Providers; 10 Best States for Healthcare & The Negative Effect of EHRs on Staff Well-Being

“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 May’s roundup.   

1. 10 Best States for Healthcare: US News 

According to U.S. News & World Report’s annual best states rankings, Hawaii is the top state for healthcare. The rankings consider several factors across distinct categories, including healthcare, education, and the economy. Federal data sources were analyzed within each health category to evaluate healthcare access, quality, and public health. Hawaii excelled in all three subcategories, securing its position as the best state for healthcare. The other four states to round off the top five on the list were Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. In terms of public health, Hawaii leads the way again, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and New York. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, May 1, 2023)   

2. Major Telehealth Changes Are Being Postponed After a Public Outcry   

The DEA has withdrawn a highly criticized proposal for in-person visits in telemedicine prescriptions of controlled substances because of public outcry. The DEA has extended the public comment period by six months, allowing telehealth treatment until November 2024–the outcry from telehealth providers came from concerns over patients with opioid use disorder. Telehealth companies and advocates praised the decision, providing an opportunity to recognize telehealth’s positive impact during the pandemic. However, the in-person visit requirement could still return later. 

(Fast Company, May 9, 2023)   

3. HHS: How the End of the PHE Will Impact Telehealth Flexibilities   

As the COVID-19 public health emergency ended, telehealth flexibilities introduced during the pandemic needed to be adjusted. Certain Medicare telehealth flexibilities have been extended until Dec. 31, 2024, allowing home-based visits and audio-only coverage.  

However, there will be changes in virtual care regulations related to HIPAA compliance and behavioral healthcare. The HHS Office for Civil Rights will no longer overlook HIPAA noncompliance, giving covered healthcare providers a 90-day period to ensure compliance. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s telehealth flexibilities, including remote evaluations for opioid treatment, will gradually expire over the next year. The DEA has updated rules on the virtual prescribing of controlled substances, extending the waiver until November 2023.  

(Xtelligent Healthcare Media, May 11, 2023)   

4. 4 Ways Technology Solutions Mitigate Staff Shortages in Rural Healthcare 

Rural, independent, and community hospitals in the US face labor shortages and rising costs, impacting their operations. Technology solutions may help mitigate these challenges by maximizing staff utilization and resources. Four ways health IT solutions can address staff shortages include:

  • Minimizing clinician burnout.
  • Improving operational efficiencies through virtual sitting and AI tools.
  • Connecting rural clinicians with specialists through telehealth and clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platforms.
  • Addressing limited funding through resource pooling and collaborations. 

These technology solutions enable rural hospitals to provide advanced care, reduce fatigue, improve efficiency, and expand access to specialty resources, benefiting the communities they serve. 

(Health Tech Magazine, May 15, 2023) 

5. Key Ways the Debt Ceiling Impacts Healthcare Providers, Payments

The US government’s impending financial crisis, caused by the potential exhaustion of funds if the debt ceiling isn’t resolved, poses significant risks for healthcare providers. Providers relying on government reimbursement for treating Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries, including rural hospitals, face heightened vulnerability.  

Patient access to care and healthcare reimbursement are profoundly impacted, and commercial payers may also experience consequences. Lawmakers are actively negotiating to prevent a debt ceiling breach, with the date for running out of funds projected as June 8.  

(RevCycleIntelligence, May 16, 2023) 

6. EHRs Negatively Affect Well-Being of Healthcare Teams, Study Finds

Electronic health records (EHRs) have a negative impact on team function and well-being in healthcare settings, according to a Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Open study. EHRs facilitate task-related communication but can limit rich and social interaction among healthcare teams, the study says. Fostering physician well-being and promoting face-to-face interaction can minimize the adverse effects of EHRs on team function. A sense of teamwork and feeling valued can help lower the increasing rates of burnout among physicians. 

(Healthcare Finance News, May 17, 2023) 

7. Telemedicine Reform Could Remove Barriers to Mental Health Care 

Telemedicine reform could help remove barriers to mental health care, particularly for active-duty service members in the military. The demands of military service, such as separation, combat stressors, and relocation, have resulted in significant mental health challenges for service members. While there have been commitments to veteran suicide prevention, resources for service members’ mental health needs are less accessible and often not prioritized unless they reach a crisis level.  

Two potential solutions to this would be to first leverage existing legislation, such as the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), and then to streamline telemedicine credentialing and licensing for mental health professionals across states, establishing a nationwide system to simplify regulation and broaden the pool of eligible providers.  

(Yahoo!Life, May 17, 2023) 

8. VA, Uber Health Work to Close Transportation Gaps for Veteran Patients 

The VHA-Uber Health Connect (VUHC) Initiative addresses transportation barriers that hinder access to healthcare for Veterans. The VHA Innovation Ecosystem, Veteran Transportation Program, and Uber Health have collaborated to provide a supplemental transportation option for Veterans attending medical appointments.  

This pilot program allows clinics and VA Medical Centers to book rides for eligible Veterans through Uber Health’s platform. The initiative aims to increase access to care, improve the patient’s experience, and simplify the reimbursement process, with the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center directly covering transportation costs.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, May 17, 2023)

9. As Healthcare Organizations Get Bigger, Healthcare Workers Feel Smaller 

The healthcare industry is witnessing two interconnected trends: consolidation of organizations and increasing burnout among healthcare professionals. The size of an organization does not always guarantee quality care. Healthcare professionals within large organizations often feel invisible and disempowered due to administrative burdens and a lack of agency, which leads to burnout.  

To address this, leaders could create smaller units within large organizations, reduce bureaucratic paperwork, involve clinicians in decision-making, and embrace common-sense reforms. Prioritizing the needs and contributions of clinicians is essential for healthcare organizations, regardless of their size. 

(Forbes, May 19, 2023)  

10. Rural Healthcare In 2030: What 4 Experts Say It May Look Like

Many rural hospitals across the country are currently at risk of being shut down. There have been 170 hospitals in rural communities across the US that have closed since 2005, and there are even more at-risk currently of being closed. Healthcare leaders emphasize virtual services, preventive care, and home-centered healthcare to preserve access.  

Several strategies to prevent closure would be implementing CMS payment reform, ensuring adequate reimbursement from payers, providing incentives to address workforce shortages, and supporting legislation such as the Rural Hospital Support Act. The American Hospital Association urges stronger support for the rural emergency hospital designation, ensuring flexibility and increased Medicare payments. These measures aim to safeguard access and address rural healthcare needs. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, May 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.