In the Interim: Dollar General’s Rural Health Pilot; DEA’s Telemedicine Extension; and Forecasts on Labor Shortages, Healthcare Staffing

“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 October’s roundup.  

1. Projected Labor Shortages for 6 Healthcare Roles in 2031 

A report from McKinsey & Co., projects the U.S. requires over a million more nurses by 2031, but more than 80% of these positions are expected to remain unfilled.  

McKinsey’s analysis of 2021 data revealed that education rates in 2021 fall short of training an adequate workforce for six healthcare roles in the coming decade. The forecasted labor shortages for 2031 include 831,212 open positions in nursing care, 62,604 in specialty care, 13,420 in primary care, 38,675 in pharmacy, 36,517 in dentistry, and 11,701 in emergency medical services. However, due to an increase in education, there is expected to be an oversupply of behavioral health workers by 2031

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 02, 2023) 

2. Google Announces New Generative AI Search Capabilities for Doctors

Google Cloud announced the launch of new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered search capabilities to help healthcare workers access accurate clinical information quickly. The search tool is designed to pull information from various medical records, such as clinical notes, scanned documents, and electronic health records, allowing doctors to find relevant information in one place. The new capabilities are expected to save healthcare workers considerable time and energy, making it easier for them to access patient history, apply billing codes correctly, and determine eligibility for clinical trials. 

The company’s new search offerings will be integrated into its Vertex AI Search platform and will be available to health and life sciences organizations. Google Cloud is testing capabilities with organizations like Mayo Clinic, Hackensack Meridian Health, and Highmark Health. The initial reaction to the search tools has been positive.

(CNBC, Oct. 9, 2023) 

3. Dollar General’s Rural Healthcare Pilot Sees Mixed Reviews

Dollar General’s rural healthcare pilot, called DG Wellbeing, received mixed reviews for its mobile clinics set up in store parking lots. The pilot, aimed at closing the gap in rural healthcare delivery, offers preventive care, urgent care, and chronic condition management services in three Tennessee locations. The mobile clinics accept Medicaid/TennCare, Medicare, and certain plans under major health insurers, with flat rates starting at $69 for those without insurance. 

Some customers have expressed concerns about receiving medical care in a parking lot, stating that the retailer and healthcare do not go together. About 1,000 patients have been seen at the Dollar General mobile clinics so far, but the clinics are bypassed by many despite being in federally designated primary care shortage areas. 

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 9, 2023) 

4. SIA Forecasts 12% Growth in Locum Tenens Staffing in 2023

According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), the US healthcare staffing sector is expected to normalize this year. SIA estimates the market size reached $68.7 billion in 2022, driven by tight labor markets and attrition. SIA projects a 30% contraction in the travel nurse segment in 2023, while the per diem segment is expected to decrease by 8% but normalize with 2% growth in 2024. 

The locum tenens segment is forecasted to grow by 12% in 2023 due to the aging population’s demand for medical services. The allied segment is anticipated to contract by 3% in 2023 and decrease by 5% in 2024. There is a continued imbalance of demand over supply, and as the aging population drives up the demand for healthcare services, health systems will continue to rely on staffing firms to address their needs.

(Staffing Industry Analysts, Oct. 10, 2023)

5. DEA Extends Telemedicine Prescription of Controlled Medicines 

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have 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 of 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.

(XTelligent Healthcare Media, Oct. 11, 2023) 

6. Premiums for Family Health Insurance at Work Jump to Nearly $24,000 

The annual cost of family health insurance coverage provided by employers has spiked, reaching an average of nearly $24,000 this year, marking a 7% increase from the previous year, as revealed by KFF’s Employer Health Benefits Survey. Employees are bearing the brunt, with their average share of the premium climbing to around $6,575, almost 8% higher than last year. Single coverage premiums also saw a 7% hike, with employees covering more than $1,400 of the cost.  

This substantial rise in cost aligns with the growth in wages and inflation over the past year and mirrors current trends, in contrast to earlier decades when premiums surged.  

(CNN Business, Oct. 14, 2023)

7. More Internal Medicine, Family Practice Doctors Left the Workforce Than Other Specialties in the Last Two Years

In 2021 and 2022, more than 145,200 clinicians, particularly physicians, left the healthcare workforce, raising concerns about staffing shortages. Over 71,300 physicians, comprising nearly 7% of the active physician workforce, departed due to reasons like COVID-19 concerns, long hours, and emotional stress. The specialties with the highest departures, internal medicine, family practice, clinical psychology, and psychiatry, were attributed to factors like increased demand during COVID-19 and significant pandemic pressure. Demographics also played a role, with a sizable portion of physicians nearing retirement age. Nurse practitioners, physical therapists, physician assistants, and licensed clinical social workers also left, potentially leading to critical staffing shortages and impacting patient care, as physicians link staffing shortages to medical errors.  

Healthcare organizations are advised to invest in technologies like telehealth, address burnout, and reform graduate medical education programs to mitigate current and future staffing challenges.

(Fierce Healthcare, Oct 18, 2023) 

8. Department of Health and Human Services Urges Patient Education on Privacy Basics

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights provided healthcare organizations with new resources to educate patients about safeguarding their protected health information during telehealth appointments. Educating patients about HIPAA has always been a priority, and it is more important now than ever with the rise in technology.  

These resources offer guidance on maintaining privacy during virtual appointments at home or in public, emphasizing the importance of effective communication between providers and patients for quality care. Patients are advised to turn off devices like home security cameras and smart speakers during telehealth appointments to prevent overhearing or recording. Additional tips include having telehealth appointments in a secluded location, using personal devices, regularly updating security settings, using strong passwords, and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks. The initiative aims to enhance patient awareness of privacy and security risks associated with telehealth.

(Healthcare IT News, Oct. 19, 2023) 

9. The Future of U.S. Healthcare: 2030 and Beyond 

In 2030, the U.S. healthcare system faces significant challenges due to shifting demographics in the physician workforce, a projected shortage of doctors and nurses, and high rates of physician burnout. The aging population and the retirement of a large percentage of physicians are expected to lead to a shortage of over 139,000 doctors, while nursing is predicted to face a shortage of 200,000 to 450,000 nurses.  

As mergers and acquisitions across healthcare change structure and culture, this physician-penned article addresses the need to shift focus toward physician wellness and coordinated team-based care in surviving organizations. Leaders are urged to plan for these changes and prioritize physician wellbeing to combat the projected shortages. 

(KevinMD, Oct. 19, 2023) 

10. Phoenix Introduces New Medical School

Arizona State University (ASU) has chosen Phoenix as the headquarters for ASU Health, a brand-new “learning health ecosystem” that includes a medical school and an expanded partnership with the Mayo Clinic. This new initiative will integrate clinical medicine with biomedical science and engineering to produce technologically enhanced doctors capable of working across entire communities.  

ASU Health was established to address the need for expanded medical education in Arizona and aims to push Phoenix to the forefront of physician development, research, and public health. The partnership with the Mayo Clinic will provide further opportunities for medical education and collaboration.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct. 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.