Locums CME # 15: Why Young Docs Should Consider Locums; Patient Satisfaction on Assignment; Adapting to Rural Locums, Embracing AI & More

Locums CME is a bi-weekly roundup of recent news that matters to locum tenens providers. Stay in the loop on what’s new in the locums industry, and make the most of the locum tenens lifestyle with our fresh finds. 


Young Physicians Should Look At Locum Tenens Opportunities

(From Hayes Locums 5/8/2023)

New physicians, do you know your next career steps? You could be right out of medical school–you’re green, fresh off of a residency or fellowship, and finally getting comfortable in the white coat–now ALL you have to do is make a career decision that influences your personal and professional life for the foreseeable future. 

Where do you go next? It can be overwhelming having so many choices to make, but becoming a locum tenens physician allows you to try out a variety of positions and pick the best environment where you know you’ll thrive. 

Working as a locum tenens physician can be a beneficial career choice for early-career doctors. By trying out various locations and practice settings, physicians can make an informed decision about where they want their permanent placement. Locum tenens physicians benefit from practicing in different environments from urban to rural, small to large. 

Financially, locum tenens can be advantageous, too. Locum tenens providers often receive higher pay rates because there’s such a demand in the market right now for healthcare providers. 

Paying off medical school debt is typically at the top of a list of concerns for physicians. So locum tenens helps the doctor embarking on this new career journey out of school meet financial goals faster, whether taking occasional assignments or pursuing a full-time locum tenens career.

Locum tenens also provides an opportunity to expand clinical skills by working with diverse patient populations, medical teams, and case types. Locum tenens opportunities let doctors gain valuable experience and learn different methods and techniques quickly. 

Locum tenens physicians often provide immediate care and ensure access to medical services for hospitals. They have more time to focus on patient care and can generally feel more appreciated for their contributions. Working as a locum tenens physician lets providers make a meaningful impact on healthcare where they are most needed.

Your Locums Prescription

(From MPLT Healthcare, 5/16/2023)

There are many reasons to choose the locum tenens path as a provider—travel destinations, a lucrative paycheck, or more flexibility in your schedule. One of the best things about being a provider is the opportunity to meet and treat so many different patients.

Patient satisfaction is always one of the top priorities for a provider, and here are some ways to maximize patient satisfaction as a locum tenens provider.

  1. Be adaptable: By supporting full-time providers, communicating effectively, and taking on additional responsibilities, you can ease the stress on the medical team and ensure patients receive the care they need. 
  2. Focus on the quality of care: Don’t just go through the motions. Bring a positive and motivated approach to your worksite. Collaborate with patients’ medical teams and take the time to learn about each patient. 
  3. Approach each assignment with a learning mindset: This will enhance your qualifications and give you a deeper understanding of different healthcare techniques and approaches. 

Applying these methods daily can help you improve patient satisfaction in every new locum tenens opportunity.

(From Medicus Healthcare Solutions, 5/17/2023)

The field of gastroenterology is projected to decline by more than 1,600 physicians by 2025. The reasons why are your usual suspects: burnout, early retirement, and the pursuit of happiness (aka work-life balance).

Medscape recently surveyed gastroenterologists, and 64% said “bureaucratic tasks” were the leading factor behind their dismissal from the career field. Locum tenens gastroenterologists would solve some of the challenges in the field’s workforce. As a gastroenterologist, you should consider practicing locums because: 

1. You can focus on patient care.
Locum tenens work lets physicians prioritize patient care by reducing administrative burdens and paperwork associated with permanent positions.

2. It will free you up for a better work-life balance. 
A GI locum offers better work-life balance because the flexibility of assignments can vary in length, allowing physicians to make time for personal interests and hobbies outside of medicine. 

3. There’s the freedom to choose your clinical setting.
Choose your setting preference, whether working in an academic medical center or providing in-patient care at a hospital.

4. GI locums help people in need.
GI locums help communities with limited access to specialty care. Working independently, they can take on diverse responsibilities and make a significant difference for patients who struggle to find gastrointestinal care. 

5. You get more travel opportunities.
Locum tenens assignments offer travel opportunities, allowing physicians to explore different places and expand their professional network. 

6. Take home a greater paycheck. 
The higher compensation associated with locum tenens work is another attractive aspect. Locum tenens GI physicians typically earn more money than permanent physicians because of increased demand.

(From Wilderness Medical Staffing, 5/10/2023)

When providers first hear about locum tenens work, they can get excited about the opportunity for adventure in a different location. However, taking the initial plunge can also be nerve-racking.

“How do I know if I’ll like it?” 

“Will it give me the balance in life that I crave?”

“Is it worth it, or will I regret it immediately?”

Travel is often involved in locum tenens assignments and can take place in many different locations–you can see the world and get paid to do it. Staffing agencies typically cover travel expenses, including flights, vehicles, and housing arrangements. But travel to rural or remote areas may present unique logistical challenges, such as unpredictable weather conditions.

Locum tenens work provides flexibility, and that flexibility can be tremendous. Providers get the option to work for specific durations or take extended time off between assignments. 

Medical professionals considering locum tenens work should also be aware of licensing requirements in the states they plan to work in. Active medical licenses are necessary, and providers may need to undergo credentialing processes with individual facilities. Providers must also maintain malpractice insurance, typically provided by the agency, while obtaining health insurance coverage. 

Locum tenens work offers medical providers the opportunity to experience diverse healthcare settings. While it may involve financial considerations and independent benefits management, it still provides a unique opportunity for adventure. You just have to decide if that’s worth the trade-off. 

Physician Wellness Retreat

(From Cardiology Advisors, 5/5/2023)

All physicians face a high level of stress and burnout. However, studies have shown that cardiologists may have higher rates of burnout than other specialties. Physicians are always telling their patients about the importance of reducing psychological stress and taking time to relax. Cardiologists know better than most the connection between stress and heart health.

Vacation time has been linked to health improvements like reducing burnout, improving well-being, heart rate variability, sleep quality, etc.

These findings highlight the importance of prioritizing personal time off. Several barriers discourage or prevent physicians from taking time off such as a lack of coverage while away, organization-wide rules on vacation, or compensation models that discourage it. The healthcare industry needs to encourage physicians to take adequate personal time off, and there needs to be a supportive culture that values vacation time.

Institutions and practices can set the expectation that vacation is a requirement for their providers, and there should be explicit guidelines on coverage during time away. It’s important to recognize the significance of self-care and vacation time, advocate for it, and be intentional in using your time off.

(From KevinMD 5/8/2023)

Physician burnout is a growing problem, and primary care specialties, including internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine, are among the most affected. 

Dr. Chandravadan Patel, an internal medicine physician, says the move to a value-based care model helped him improve his well-being and alleviate burnout.

Dr. Patel’s personal experience with burnout came from years of working in a demanding “fee-for-service” environment, he says. He was overwhelmed, and his busy schedule took a physical and emotional toll on him. He transitioned his practice to a value-based care model. This new approach focuses on quality over quantity, where providers receive fixed reimbursement for delivering prepaid health services and are rewarded for positive patient outcomes.

Dr. Patel saw fewer patients and was able to spend more time with them, which is one of the things he loved most about practicing medicine. Value-based care allowed Dr. Patel to offer comprehensive services in one location and helped remove barriers to treatment for seniors who typically had to go to multiple places for their healthcare needs. 

The model emphasized building trust and strong patient-physician relationships, which made the care more effective, he says. His journey demonstrates how taking a step like this to transition his practice to a value-based care model helped him reduce burnout. It improved his professional fulfillment and allowed him to provide better care while prioritizing his well-being. 

Dr. Patel now works in a chief medical officer role where he serves multiple clinics and educates new physicians about the benefits of value-based care. 

Socially Speaking

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Doctor’s Notes

(From Urology Times, 5/22/2023)

Online reviews can shape the reputation and success of healthcare organizations. A survey from Software Advice says approximately 94% of patients rely on online reviews to evaluate their providers, which means a provider’s reputation management is essential.

Patient expectations are unique in the healthcare industry as their well-being is at stake. Whether it’s for routine exams or critical procedures, patients seek trusted professionals. Healthcare brands have to prioritize a well-optimized reputation management strategy. 

According to HealthGrades, 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, and 84% would not choose a physician rated below four stars.

Positive online reviews help build patient trust and attract new patients, while negative reviews can hinder growth. Reviews also impact online visibility, as they influence search engine rankings. Managing an organization’s online reputation includes looking at reviews and social media, and then responding promptly and authentically. Responding to reviews helps maintain positive patient-provider relationships.

Providing offline communication options and addressing concerns can alleviate worries and demonstrate a commitment to patient care. Ultimately, reputation management is vital for healthcare brands, as positive reviews instill confidence in patients’ choices, while negative reviews can drive them toward competitors. It is essential to prioritize reputation management and stay ahead of the competition.

(From Medical Economics, 5/15/2023)

The words “artificial intelligence” might make you a little uneasy, especially as a healthcare provider. It can raise concerns about the future of medical practice and the value of human expertise. However, the integration of AI into healthcare is transforming the medical landscape, and physicians need to educate themselves about AI.

AI excels at quickly processing vast amounts of data, allowing physicians to identify patterns and trends that might go unnoticed. AI algorithms have shown remarkable accuracy in diagnosing medical conditions from imaging data and are expected to become even more sophisticated.

Physicians leveraging AI’s diagnostic capabilities can make more informed decisions and improve patient outcomes. Additionally, AI can help doctors stay up to date with the latest medical research, summarizing and analyzing new findings to ensure the best possible care. AI also has the potential to personalize medicine by tailoring treatment plans to each patient’s unique characteristics.

You’ve also probably already heard about how AI can streamline administrative tasks and free up time for physicians to engage with their patients. AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, but there will likely be challenges in adopting it along the way. Either way, now is the time to embrace this transformative technology and educate yourself about its capabilities and limitations.

(From Physicians Practice, 5/22/2023)

Collecting a patient’s money has become increasingly challenging, especially with high-deductible health plans. Physicians may have ignored unpaid balances and focused on providing care in the past, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a re-evaluation of this approach. 

One major issue is that patients don’t understand their health insurance benefits, including how much they owe and why. If your office staff wasn’t sufficiently trained, it can exacerbate patient frustration. Additionally, changes in credit-reporting practices may make it harder to collect medical bills. To address these challenges and improve cash flow, experts recommend several strategies. 

  1. Practices should leverage the No Surprises Act (NSA) to inform patients of their out-of-pocket costs upfront and provide clear explanations.
  2. Collect payment as close to the time of service as possible.
  3. Focus on staff training. Staff should be able to explain concepts such as deductible, co-pay, and out-of-pocket maximum and be able to interpret benefits.
  4. Create a written financial policy and offer various payment options to facilitate collections.
  5. Exercise caution with collection agencies. With collections, you’ll often spend a minimum of 35% to 45% the minute you send it out the door.
  6. Be prepared to issue refunds to patients when necessary.
  7. Make it easy to pay.

It’s important to enhance your patient collections process for your healthcare organization. By training your staff, adopting new technology, and improving your patient services, you can maintain a high level of care for your community.

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