In the Interim | Highest-Paying Regions for Physicians, Dangers of ‘Pretend Time Off,’ Trying Locum Tenens & 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 this month.   

1. Report reveals Central US states lead in physician compensation

According to Medscape’s 2024 Physician Compensation Report, the central regions of the U.S. offer the highest average total compensation for physicians. The survey, which included 7,000 practicing physicians across more than 29 specialties, revealed significant regional disparities in pay.

The West North Central region (Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota) tops the list with an average annual compensation of $404,000. Following closely are the East South Central ($375,000) and East North Central ($367,000) regions. The Mid-Atlantic region ranks lowest, with an average compensation of $351,000.

(Becker’s Physician Leadership, April 30, 2024)

2. FTC’s noncompete clause ban may worsen hospital staffing challenges

The Federal Trade Commission’s recent rule banning noncompete clauses may worsen staffing challenges for nonprofit hospitals. Fitch Ratings highlighted that while the rule could expand the labor pool, it might also increase wage pressures and operational volatility, particularly for smaller or rural hospitals.

The American Medical Association estimates that 35% to 45% of physicians are subject to noncompete clauses. As of February, hospital job openings remain high at 8%, and payrolls have risen for 27 consecutive months, reaching 5% above pre-pandemic levels.

Despite potential benefits, the rule’s implementation will likely be delayed indefinitely due to ongoing legal challenges.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, May 2, 2024) 

3. Early-career physicians working temp roles to ‘test drive’ practice settings, survey finds

A recent survey revealed that early-career physicians and advanced practice providers are increasingly opting for locum tenens positions to explore different practice settings and address burnout.

The survey highlighted that 86% of respondents chose locum tenens for better work schedules, while 80% chose it to combat burnout. Additionally, 45% of participants indicated they would return to permanent roles if conditions improved.

This trend is growing among younger providers, with 81% beginning locum tenens work either immediately post-training or mid-career. The number of physicians in locum tenens roles has more than doubled from 26,000 in 2002 to over 52,000 in 2024.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, May 3, 2024)

4. Doctors struggle to take real breaks despite paid time off

Despite having PTO (paid time off), a significant number of physicians find it challenging to disconnect completely from their professional responsibilities. A study published in JAMA Network Open surveyed more than 3,000 doctors and found that 60% took 15 or fewer vacation days per year. 

Driven by a reluctance to burden colleagues with additional work, more than 70% of doctors reported working on vacation, a practice that persists despite evidence linking more extended vacation periods with lower burnout rates and higher job satisfaction. 

A 2022 American Medical Association research brief estimated that over 55% of US physicians were paid based on “productivity,” leading many to opt for “pretend time off” to avoid income loss.

(NPR, May 4, 2024) 

5. Suki Strikes Landmark Deal to Ease Clinical Administrative Burdens

Virtual assistant company Suki announced a partnership with Premier, Inc., a healthcare improvement company. The deal grants Premier’s network of nearly 4,000 hospitals access to Suki’s AI-powered voice assistant platform, which is aimed at streamlining administrative tasks and allowing clinicians to focus more on patient care.

The partnership offers Premier members pre-negotiated terms and pricing to integrate Suki. The platform uses voice commands to assist with clinical documentation, ultimately minimizing paperwork. By using Suki’s technology, Premier and its members are actively working to improve healthcare delivery by lessening the administrative burden on clinicians​.

(Forbes, May 7, 2024)

6. Survey reveals high rates of burnout among physicians with disabilities

A recent survey revealed significant findings regarding burnout among physicians with disabilities (PWDs). The survey, which included nearly 6,000 physicians, found that 3% reported having a disability, with the most common disabilities related to chronic health and mobility issues (32% and 25%, respectively). 

The study highlighted that PWDs are more likely to experience depersonalization compared to their able-bodied peers, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.45. Additionally, PWDs reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion, though the difference was not statistically significant.

The report stresses the challenges faced by PWDs, including higher rates of mistreatment and inequitable pay, and encourages facilities to develop policies to support disability disclosure, accommodation processes, and equitable pay structures. 

(Medscape, May 14, 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.