News & Views

Perspectives on the locum tenens industry

Why the Quality of Locum Tenens Physicians is Often Superior to Other Physicians

By Tim Hand – President & CEO, Interim Physicians

For my next three columns, I will explore the three tenets of Advancing Quality Care, the unique philosophy of locum tenens staffing that we practice at Interim Physicians. The three tenets are quality, quantity and excellence in customer service.

This month, I’ll focus on the topic of quality. I’ll explain why it’s so crucial and illustrate how we address quality assurance at Interim Physicians.

Some of our clients wonder about the quality of locum tenens physicians. The fear is that, due to their temporary nature, they are inherently risky and maybe not as qualified as permanently employed physicians.

But if you look at the facts, you’ll see that quite the opposite is often true.

Types of Locum Tenens Physicians

First, it’s helpful to remember the types of doctors who typically work locum tenens. They may fly around a lot, but physicians who choose to practice locum tenens are far from flighty. The doctors who work with our firm tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • They’re fresh out of residency and doing locums while they take their time looking for their ideal full-time job (which, interestingly, they often find by doing locums assignments)
  • They’re working as a locums toward the end of their career as an alternative to completely retiring
  • They’ve chosen locum tenens as their full-time career either for the variety it offers or because they have no interest in dealing with the day-to-day hassles that many practicing physicians face

Locums are Held to a Higher Standard

Locum tenens physicians are held to the same high (and sometimes even higher) standards as are their permanent staff colleagues. Most hold medical licenses in several states and have secured privileges in dozens of hospitals. They are constantly under the credentialing microscope, so the idea that locum tenens physicians are in some way second tier or working in the field because they can’t find a “real job” is simply not true.

At Interim Physicians we take quality very seriously. Hospitals and medical clinics who hire physicians can’t afford to take chances when it comes to controlling risk, and neither can we. Before we have a candidate begin an assignment at a client, we:

  • Pull an AMA profile
  • Do primary source verification of education, licensure and certifications
  • Conduct a criminal background check
  • Contact references
  • Dig up any information that may exist related to prior medical malpractice claims or any prior disciplinary actions taken by licensure boards or hospitals where the physician may have worked previously
  • Check any history of actions taken against the physician by the Office of Inspector General

We then work directly with the medical staff office and/or medical directors of our client facility to provide the information required for the treatment of patients at that particular facility. This helps to facilitate and speed up the internal credentialing process that a hospital facility is required to follow for every physician that treats patients in the facility.

Every facility is a little different regarding what they require for hospital privileges, and since Interim Physicians has already conducted our own verification process, we can sometimes get the information turned around faster, since relationships already exist between the other facilities and Interim.

Once the hospital has completed their internal process and the physician is approved to work at that facility, Interim makes certain that all travel arrangements are made to get the physician to the client facility safely and on time.

Quality Evaluation

Once an assignment is completed, we want to know how the Interim Physician worked out for the client. Therefore, we send out an electronic survey assessing the quality, quantity, and level of customer service that was provided by both the physician as well as Interim Physicians. This is our ongoing means of performance measurement and helps us make certain that we are living up to our Advancing Quality Care philosophy.

(In a future column, I’ll discuss some exciting results from our first annual Advancing Quality Care client survey report. We were extremely pleased by the survey findings. Stay tuned!)

Just like in all other walks of life, not all physicians are created equal. Interim Physicians makes certain that the physicians that we place with our client facilities are a cut above those offered by our competition. We believe that our patients first mentality is merely one of the qualities that sets Interim Physicians apart from other locum tenens companies.

Tim Hand is the Chief Executive Officer of Interim Physicians and is a noted healthcare staffing thought leader. He has led three companies to Inc. 500 status over 30 years.