In the Interim: AI’s Role in Diagnosing Illness; Reshaping Residency Programs; and the Cost of E-Visits in Healthcare

“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 September’s roundup.   

1. House Bill Advances “Gold Card” Model on Prior Authorization 

A recent House bill the “Getting Over Lengthy Delays in Care as Required by Doctors (GOLD) Act of 2023,” introduced the “gold card” model for prior authorization in healthcare. This legislative initiative aims to simplify and improve the complex prior authorization process. The gold card model would establish a standardized approach, reducing administrative complexities and ensuring that patients can access necessary medical treatments promptly. This legislative progress aims to enhance healthcare efficiency and accessibility, addressing a critical aspect of healthcare practice management. 

The proposed act demonstrates a commitment to addressing the challenges associated with prior authorization, potentially lessening the administrative burden on healthcare providers and improving patient outcomes. By simplifying and standardizing the process, this House bill aims to create a more efficient and patient-centered healthcare system, allowing medical professionals to focus on delivering quality care.

(The American Medical Association, Aug. 30, 2023) 

2. Glass Health is Building an AI for Suggesting Medical Diagnoses

Glass Health, a health tech startup, has launched an AI tool that suggests medical diagnoses and treatment options based on patient summaries entered by clinicians. Despite the tool’s promise, it’s worth noting that general large language models (LLMs) have limitations in providing health advice. 
Glass Health has garnered early social media interest from healthcare professionals, with over 59,000 users so far. The platform offers a notebook for physicians to store and share diagnostic and treatment approaches. With $6.5 million in funding, Glass Health plans to enhance physician involvement in creating and updating clinical guidelines, fine-tune the AI, and conduct research and development. The startup also intends to pilot an electronic health record-integrated enterprise offering with HIPAA compliance this year; 15 health systems and companies are on the waitlist. 
(TechCrunch, Sept. 8, 2023) 

3. Uncovering Three Types of Patients Who Might Sue 

This article discusses the risks that physicians may face in legal situations, particularly when targeted by prosecutors. It highlights common tactics prosecutors use to paint doctors in a negative light, then identifies three categories of individuals who may pose a threat: angry patients who have been dismissed, disgruntled former employees, and jealous competitors. Author Dr. Parker emphasizes the importance of being cautious in accepting patients and hiring staff, documenting interactions thoroughly, and establishing relationships with healthcare specialty law groups to navigate legal challenges and mitigate vulnerability.

(KevinMD, Sept. 10, 2023) 

4. FDA Panel Finds Ineffective Ingredient in Cold Medications 

The FDA raised concerns regarding the effectiveness of phenylephrine, a commonly used nasal decongestant. The agency’s assessment suggests that phenylephrine may not provide significant relief for nasal congestion as previously believed. This revelation comes after a comprehensive review of available clinical data, leading to questions about the continued use of phenylephrine in over-the-counter and prescription nasal decongestant products. 
As the FDA raises doubts about the efficacy of phenylephrine, it prompts a reevaluation of the ingredient’s role in nasal decongestants. Healthcare providers and consumers alike should remain vigilant in assessing the available treatment options for nasal congestion, seeking alternatives that have been proven effective through rigorous scientific research. 
(The Washington Post, Sept. 12, 2023) 

5. US Healthcare Staffing Market to Hit $27 Billion by 2030 at 3.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) 

According to a report by Coherent Market Insights, the US healthcare staffing industry is set to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.4% over the next decade, hitting $27 billion by 2030. This involves the recruitment, hiring, and deployment of skilled medical professionals such as nurses, doctors, and support staff to medical facilities.  

One of the key trends in the US healthcare staffing market is the increasing demand for travel nurses. 1,696,386 traveling nurses were employed in the US in 2020, and this trend is expected to continue as the requirement for temporary staffing for medical professionals increases.  
(GlobeNewswire, Sept. 13, 2023) 

6. DEA to Arrange Special Registration for Telehealth Prescribing? Doctors and Lawmakers Say It’s Long Overdue

Changes to telehealth prescribing regulations could impact patient access to care. Recent discussions by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raise the question of whether a special registration process will be implemented for telehealth prescribing. Doctors and lawmakers argue that requiring in-person visits for controlled drug prescriptions limits access to care, particularly for patients in rural areas with a shortage of mental health providers. 

The proposed rules by the DEA aim to provide safeguards against online over-prescribing of controlled medications, but they have faced significant backlash from doctors and telehealth groups. Many providers are concerned about the operational and technical burden of implementing the proposed requirements, especially for complex health systems.

(Fierce Healthcare, Sept. 13, 2023) 

7. As More Patients Start Emailing Doctors, Health Systems Start Charging Fees

Health systems in the US have started charging patients for e-visits, where physicians respond to patient messages. The motivation behind this billing is to reduce the growing volume of patient emails, which increased by 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Charging for e-visits aims to compensate providers for their time while encouraging patients to consider scheduling an in-person visit when appropriate. 

However, this practice raises concerns about its impact on lower-income patients and those with health conditions that make in-person visits challenging. It may discourage patients with serious chronic conditions from messaging their doctors, raising questions about the potential consequences of the billing practice on patient care.

(KFF Health News, Sept. 14, 2023) 

8. Healthcare Organizations Increasing IT Investments 

Healthcare institutions are rapidly increasing their spending on IT and software, with 80% of healthcare executives boosting their IT investment over the past year. According to a Bain and Company report, technology and IT have become a top strategic priority for healthcare providers, driven by emerging technologies, labor shortages, and cost pressures. Among the respondents, 56% identified software and technology as a top-three strategic priority, compared to 34% in the previous year.  

Key areas of IT investment include revenue cycle management (RCM) and clinical workflow optimization software, with a focus on streamlining labor-intensive processes. The report also highlights a growing interest in the potential of AI to improve efficiency, patient outcomes, and cost savings.

(Healthcare Finance, Sept. 14, 2023) 

9. The Physician Specialties with the Least Burnout 

Public health and preventive medicine physicians experience the least burnout among physician specialties, according to Medscape’s 2023 report. The specialties with the most burnout include emergency medicine, with rates ranging from 62-65%. The top three specialties with the least burnout are public health and preventive medicine (37%), pathology (39%), and cardiology (43%).

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

10. Connecticut Expands Medical Residency Capacity 

On Sept. 14, Hartford HealthCare and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine renewed their affiliation to train physicians and agreed to expand the number of residency and fellowship positions available for UConn students. 

Specifically, Hartford HealthCare will increase these positions in specialties facing decreased enrollment. This partnership aims to address the region’s provider shortage, with an expectation that half of the trained physicians will continue practicing in Connecticut after completing their training. Over 600 UConn residents and fellows are projected to undergo clinical training within the Hartford HealthCare system each year.

(Becker’s Hospital Review, Sept. 15, 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.