Locum tenens physicians have never been more important than they are right now. The COVID-19 crisis is impacting both the healthcare community’s demand for healthcare workers and poses a high risk to those workers of contracting the virus.
Even in normal times, communities often need support from locums practitioners to fill voids in staffing. Rural communities, for instance, report they’re concerned about handling the increased patient demand because their populations are generally older and sicker than those in urban areas. Plus, they have less access to health care, per Physicians Practice.
Healthcare experts believe locum tenens are critical in the management and resolution of this pandemic. While locum work is often associated with extensive travel, they don’t always have to travel for assignments. In fact, in the age of COVID-19, many locum tenens are working locally by taking shifts at nearby hospitals or healthcare facilities within driving distance.
Locum tenens are also well adapted to working quickly in today’s scenarios. Ripal Patel, MD, MPH says “a pandemic really shed another light on yet another incredible facet of locums work: we are trained to parachute into any environment and be highly functional to optimize patient care. Need me in New York? I’ll be packed and on that flight. You have that Electronic Medical Record? I can learn it fast. That’s how you admit? That’s how my other hospitals do it.”
Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reported this week that locum tenens had a median year-over-year revenue growth of 9% in March, and an 11% increase in bill rates in the last three months. The increase in demand has affected some specific specialties, including the following (per locumstory by CHG):
- Critical Care
- Emergency Medicine
- Infection Disease Specialists
It’s no surprise that there has been an increase in demand for COVID-related locum tenens assignments in certain geographical regions including New York and California. CHG also says they’ve seen the largest increase in telemedicine demand, also per locumstory.
To battle the shortages for COVID-related healthcare, most states have also temporarily lifted or reduced restrictions on licensing, which we talk more about in this article.
Here’s also a list of 35 states who’ve expedited healthcare license requirements in response to the COVID-19. Because of this, the locum tenens staffing agency, Barton Associates, says they have seen the time it takes for providers to get to their assignments decrease significantly during the COVID-19 outbreak. “For one, changes to state legislature now allow providers of all types to obtain emergency licensure in a matter of hours, or better yet practice across state lines with few questions asked. For example, just one month ago, providers waited 16 weeks to obtain a license in Iowa, but now, any U.S. state licensed physician (or physician with an expired Iowa license), can assist with COVID-19 efforts in the state," per Barton Associates.
Keeping locum tenens physicians safe.
Naturally, there are concerns about how we’re keeping doctors and other healthcare providers safe. Barton Associates has implemented a list of additional screening questions for every provider who goes on assignment, including if the physician has traveled in the last 30 days and whether they have any reason to believe they’ve been exposed to the virus. CHG Healthcare says they have changed numerous policies to allow for quick response to the medical and practical needs of doctors on assignment.
Locum tenens have been helping to deliver quality healthcare to facilities and patients in need for over 40 years – and now, more than ever, these providers have a crucial role in ensuring people receive the care they need during this pandemic.
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