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Strategy insight for using locum tenen physicians

One-click managementNursing, being the largest labor category within healthcare, has long been an area where automation and process improvements have been critical to running a smooth contingent staffing operation. But other labor departments long overlooked – like physicians – are catching on, as changes occur in the healthcare marketplace.

Temporary and contract physicians (known as locum tenens) are needed in greater supply due to an ever-growing shortage of available physicians as well as a continuing exodus from private practice to larger corporate-run health centers. According to Staff Care’s “2013 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends (PDF),” filling in for staff who have left is the most common reason for the use of locum tenens.

The need for a full roster of physicians  is essential to the financial sustainability of any health system.  In fact, according to a study by physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, they bring an average of nearly $1.5 million in revenue to their health facilities every year.

As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Staff Care survey reports “continual treatment of patients” and “preventing revenue loss” as the two biggest benefits of using locum tenens. And while there are drawbacks, cost and challenges in credentialing being chief among them, a whopping 85% of respondents said that the use of locum tenens is “worth it”.

This all suggests hospitals and the like are highly motivated to fill the openings, but don’t always have the right strategy to do so efficiently (both in process and cost).

So what can be done to make locum tenen usage more streamlined and efficient?

We turned to some of ShiftWise’s representatives in the field for further insight into how healthcare facilities can (and already are) optimize their locum tenen strategies.

 Simplify the process

Jeff Niles“It’s important to simplify the process of approving time and expenses. In a manual process, there is a ton of paper including receipts for expenses, hotel bills, airplane flights, etc. This becomes impossible to manage as volume increases without some form of automation. — Jeff Niles, VP of Sales and Marketing

Create a diverse vendor community

Amanda Walrath“You want a competitive environment of those supplying staff. Growing your vendor network diversifies your options and can slow the rate of ‘rate creep.’ If you do this in an automated environment, you can actually pull from more vendors without adding any work. — Amanda Walrath, National Manager of Client Services

Cost containment and transparency

Beck Pena“Fiscal insight is critical. You can’t have silos of contingent spend. It needs to all be in one system so that you can have the proper transparency and visibility to make sound financial decisions. — Becky Pena, Account Manager

Monitor agency activity

Jeff Niles“You need to monitor your agencies and have the ability to compare their performance according to real metrics. Having anecdotal favorites, without data to prove each agency’s value, is a good way to overspend. — Jeff Niles

Have a plan for managing credentials

Beck Pena“Locums tend to require more credentialing than other healthcare professional skill types prior to start date. If you’re bringing in a lot of locum tenens, it’s vital to have a system of tracking and processing credentials that will stand up against any type of audit. — Becky Pena

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