Guest Post: What’s the Future of Locum Tenens?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
This post was written by Adam Ghosh

The locum tenens experience provides exposure to different styles of healthcare and more diverse patient lists.

Guest blogger Adam Ghosh, a researcher in the medical field, examines the impact of a surge of newly insured on the healthcare industry, and the role of the locum tenens during this transition.

The landscape of the health industry is quickly changing. Come 2014, when the final pieces of legislation under the Affordable Healthcare Act are implemented, more individuals will have access to doctors and healthcare professionals than ever before. What does this mean for hospitals and practices across the United States? An increase, and not just a small one: a 32 million American increase.

With this added pressure to a sector of society that is already experiencing shortages, what does this mean to the traveling healthcare professional? Simply put, universities and institutions across the United States will not be able to graduate enough physicians to accommodate the growing need when 2014 finally rolls around. But with the flood of recently insured Americans making their way through hospital doors, hospitals and practices will need to quickly adapt to these increases in patient numbers.

The thousands of hospitals across the country will be faced with one of two options: accommodate the increase of patients or adapt to a waiting list policy that healthcare systems of similar operation are already using. To boost income and revenue while waiting for a qualified doctor to fill a spot, the locum tenens decision becomes more of an attractive choice. Traditionally, hospitals and practices that experience shorts in staffing have turned to the locum tenens — a doctor that takes healthcare assignments on an as-needed and temporary basis.

The year of 2010 saw approximately 181,834 days where a locum tenens was used in the United States. In 2011, that number grew to 183,252. Industry analysts say that 2014 will be the biggest year yet for locum tenens and related staffing agencies. With Obamacare facts and figures in mind, projected staffing spending this year for locum tenens was expected to grow nearly $147 million. While the numbers aren’t in yet, it looks like the estimate was not that far off.

As it stands now, the small shortage that exists in the United States is perfect for the many staffing agencies that supply hospitals with these temporary doctors, but in less than a year all that is about to change. To combat this impending need, there has been an increased push to make locum tenens assignments more attractive to the physician who is just out of med school.

Currently, about half of the United States’ practicing locum tenens is over the age of 55. To accommodate the needs of the waves of people who are soon to become insured, industry recruiters are looking to drive down this mean age by quite a bit.

To accomplish this, staffing agencies proudly point to findings from surveys that show the experience that physicians gain while on an assignment can have a host of beneficial outcomes later on in their careers. Such benefits range from exposure to different styles of healthcare to a more diverse patient list. One study even showed that out of the respondent pool, more than half of the doctors stated that had they experienced increased exposure to different hospital settings, they would have chosen a different location for their first job.

What exactly does the future hold for this portion of the healthcare field? The answer is a little uncertain, but with an additional 32 million people in the market for medical services, it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to see that the healthcare industry is in for a big shake-up.

Adam Ghosh has over twenty years experience as a researcher in the medical field. In that time he has worked with allergists and vascular surgeons, and everyone in between. He is a contributor to Weatherby Healthcare.

HIN Disclaimer: The opinions, representations and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of the Healthcare Intelligence Network as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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