In the Interim: MO Money for Docs, Bipartisan Fixes for the Provider Shortage, Active Physicians Per Capita & More

“In the Interim” is a snapshot of news that matters to locum tenens physicians. No repeats, less scrolling, more knowledge. Check out the articles we found interesting for November’s roundup.  

1. Why DEA’s Latest Move on Telehealth Could be a Lifesaver 

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced an extension of the COVID-19 telemedicine prescription flexibilities for controlled medicines. The announcement, submitted to the Federal Register on Sept. 29, 2023, is the second temporary extension of these flexibilities and will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2024. 

The DEA and HHS received over 38,000 comments on their proposed telemedicine rules and are working towards finalizing a set of telemedicine regulations by the fall 2024. The extension aims to provide patients and medical practitioners with time to plan and adapt to the new rules once they are issued. Although this extension is temporary, it is seen as a positive development by many patients and industry members who hope for continued telemedicine prescribing flexibility.

(American Medical Association, Nov. 01, 2023) 

2. Missouri Getting Millions to Combat Rural Area Doctor Shortage 

Missouri is addressing the shortage of doctors in rural areas with a $16 million grant for the Rural Scholars Program at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. Led by Dr. Kathleen Quinn, the program encourages students from rural regions to pursue medical education. The grant will fund scholarships for program participants, with a notable track record of 50% of graduates practicing medicine in rural communities. The initiative aims not only to alleviate the shortage of healthcare providers but also to stimulate economic growth, as each rural physician contributes approximately $1.3 million in revenue to their community. Additionally, the grant supports exposure to healthcare careers through the school’s mobile training facility, featuring lifelike patient simulators.

(Fox2Now, Nov. 03, 2023) 

3. Bipartisan Fixes for Physician Shortage 

In a recent address to the National Press Club, American Medical Association (AMA) President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, emphasized the urgent physician shortage crisis affecting the entire United States. Factors contributing to physician burnout, early retirement, and reduced work hours include administrative hassles, healthcare consolidation, and falling Medicare payment rates. Dr. Ehrenfeld called for legislative solutions to address these issues, highlighting pending bipartisan proposals before Congress. Key steps outlined in the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians include passing the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act, reducing administrative burdens, expanding residency training options, providing student loan support, and ensuring physicians are not penalized for addressing their mental health needs. Dr. Ehrenfeld stressed the immediate need for action to build a stronger and more resilient physician workforce.

(American Medical Association, Nov. 6, 2023) 

4. Increases in Value-Based Payment Adoption Decreased Family Physician Burnout, AAFP Study Finds 

A study by Elation Health and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reveals that family physicians using value-based payment (VBP) models experience relief from burnout, particularly when practices reach a threshold of 75% financial investment in VBP. 

The study, based on 10 practices, emphasizes the role of economies of scale in larger practices and those with network affiliations in enhancing VBP administration manageability. Practices below the 75% adoption mark showed increased burnout. The study underscores the impact of payment models on physician burnout and suggests that collaborative networks, especially for smaller practices, provide a quicker path to full VBP adoption by accessing shared savings. Despite challenges, the study indicates a trend away from fee-for-service models among family physicians.

(Fierce Healthcare, Nov 06, 2023) 

5. HCA to Invest $5B to Help Build Market Share

HCA Healthcare, based in Nashville, plans to boost its market share to 29% by 2030 through a $5.3 billion investment in approved projects. The 183-hospital system aims to expand its freestanding emergency centers and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) with $1 billion allocated to 62 approved outpatient projects and an additional 200 projects under consideration. HCA intends to increase its freestanding ER footprint by 36% over the next two years. The for-profit system also anticipates $600 million to $800 million in savings over the next five years, focusing on cost efficiency and benchmarking to improve outcomes and reduce variable costs. HCA is addressing labor shortages by expanding its Galen College of Nursing and aims to achieve its targeted EBITDA growth of 4% to 6% by 2024.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Nov. 14, 2023) 

6. Under Amazon, One Medical Builds Out Health System, Employer Partnerships for Primary Care Services 

Amazon’s One Medical has entered a significant partnership with the Health Transformation Alliance (HTA), offering its primary care services to 67 employers and close to 5 million employees, including companies like Coca-Cola, American Express, Marriott, Boeing, and Intel. 

As employers face rising healthcare costs, the collaboration aims to provide high-quality, convenient primary care services to address inefficiencies and costs in the healthcare system. The move is part of Amazon’s broader health strategy, leveraging One Medical’s tech-enabled primary care services and the resources of Amazon Health to enhance consumer service and establish a value-based care and payment model. HTA’s CEO Robert Andrews sees the partnership as setting a precedent for employer-led innovation in healthcare, emphasizing value-based care as the norm. One Medical’s capitated payment model aligns with HTA’s goal of offering employees access to outcome-focused primary care services.

(Fierce Healthcare, Nov. 14, 2023) 

7. Active Physicians per 100,000 People, Ranked by State 

The Association of American Medical Colleges’ U.S. Physician Workforce Data Dashboard has revealed that Idaho has the lowest number of active physicians per 100,000 people among U.S. states, while Massachusetts has the highest. The recently launched interactive dashboard combines data from the Physician Specialty Data Report and the State Physician Workforce Data Report, providing insights into the physician workforce across various specialties and geographies.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Nov. 20, 2023) 

8. A Scientific Approach to Malpractice Defense 

This article, penned by a physician, discusses the challenges doctors face in medical malpractice lawsuits and proposes a risk management tool to address the issue. The solution involves following the scientific method in legal proceedings, ensuring the use of credible medical experts, and openly discussing legal strategies. The author suggests that by adhering to the scientific method and employing this risk management tool, doctors can establish a robust defense against frivolous or malicious lawsuits.

Additionally, the author outlines proactive measures doctors can take, such as reporting ambulance-chasing lawyers to the state bar counsel, reporting unethical conduct by hired medical experts to the state board of medicine, and suing plaintiffs for malicious prosecution in small claims court. The article emphasizes the need for doctors to assertively address legal challenges and take charge of their defense in the face of medical malpractice allegations.

(KevinMD, Nov 21, 2023) 

9. Improving Patient Outcomes by Unifying Situational Awareness, Communication and Timely Actions 

The article highlights challenges faced by the healthcare system, particularly in intensive care units (ICUs), despite technological advancements. Issues include workforce shortages, inefficient workflows, and an inability to adapt to evolving situations, especially post-pandemic. The complexities of ICU care, increasing workloads, staff shortages, and other obstacles are discussed. The solution proposed is an integrated digital data management and communication system for ICUs, addressing challenges through capabilities such as workflow optimization, patient monitoring with medical wearables, medical device integration, new communication technologies, wall-mounted dashboards, alarm technology, clinical decision support systems, and operational key performance indicator monitoring. The integration of patient data and communication management aims to support continuous improvement, prioritize coordination, and reduce error rates, achieving a high-reliability ICU.

(Healthcare IT News, Nov 21, 2023) 

10. Talkspace Inks 26M Contract 

Talkspace, an online therapy company, has partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide free virtual mental health services to over 400,000 adolescents and teens in the city. The initiative, called TeenSpace, will offer tele-mental health services to teenagers aged 13 to 17 at no cost, addressing the rising rates of anxiety and depression among youth in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of U.S. teens reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in 2021. The service will connect teens with licensed therapists through phone, video, and text, aiming to improve mental health support accessibility.

(Fierce Healthcare, Nov. 21, 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.