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Engaging Locum Tenens in 2024 and Beyond

Over the last several months, much has been discussed about the state of staffing, how certain segments are contracting significantly, and the overall shifting landscape. The one major area of expansion though is the physician and provider space. From the latest by SIA, we are seeing continued locum tenens growth with 27% in 2022, 12% in 2023, and a projected incremental growth in 2024 of an additional 7%.

Some feel that this means increased costs or staff who are just someone who “can’t find a real job” but if you dig into the history of the industry and the realities we face today in healthcare delivery, this can truly be a time of opportunity. Having worked with hundreds of healthcare organizations across 10,000+ care sites, here are 3 of our key areas of opportunity we have identified within the increased engagement of locum tenens:

  1. Delivery

Most organizations have come around to the reality that today’s workforce, physicians, and providers included, have different work/life desires as those of years past. When considering how to replace a long serving physician, many go out and recruit 2 new physicians, but if incorporated well, using locum tenens coverage, can create a new reality.

Engaging a locum for even something like call coverage can provide better work life balance, but if you go deeper and focus on developing new care delivery models, you can engage per diem, part time, and locum coverage to shift the dynamics. Systems who successfully embrace this new reality have seen increases in perm hiring and the ability to truly convert staff from being an external locum to their own employee, both of which will drive cost containment and increased revenue along with better patient care.

  1. Burnout

Studies have shown that 60%+ of physicians are facing burnout and while there are many strategies discussed around holistic and mental health, wellness, and other programs; if an organization will break down some of their hiring silos and focus on how to engage temporary staff for augmented coverage, there is real potential to reduce burnout.

If we just look at the shifts in many specialties that used to be a 5-day work week with 1:2 or 1:3 call and see how that has changed to a 4 or even 3-day week with less call, engaging a locum provider here could really enhance care delivery and hiring. Organizations can use the flexible labor to drive delivery efficiencies without the burden of having a full-time employee, who could very well be less productive depending on the overall employment model.

  1. Cost Containment

While a locum is an investment, a prolonged vacancy can be much more costly. Many reports tout higher figures, but if we conservatively assume a $5,000 per day gross charges figure and roughly 120 days to secure your hire, revenue gaps occur fast. Now, let’s layer in that many times the candidate won’t be onsite for another 120+ days until they can leave their prior role, finish credentialing, move, etc. Before we know it, we are staring down $1m+ in lost revenue opportunity.

By developing a comprehensive locum tenens strategy as part of your permanent recruitment program, you can increase offset some or most of these potential losses. More importantly though, you are driving continuity of care to retain your patients and helping ensure that once your permanent hire starts, the patient panel or delivery team is in a place of solid footing that will drive engagement to reduce the possibility of turnover, disengagement, etc.

Here at HWL, we are wholly focused on using technology, data, and analytics to empower healthcare leaders to take control of their staffing and recruiting strategies. Our partners have gained in each of the 3 areas above by having a true line of sight not only into usage and costs, but with access to the data that allows decisions to enhance their overall delivery. Should you be looking for ways to tackle these 3 areas, or others, let’s connect and discuss your situation.

May 01, 2024/By Trevor Strauss, FACHE
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Author: Trevor Strauss, FACHE

Trevor Strauss serves as a Vice President for HWL and has been designing new solutions and driving go to market strategy within healthcare workforce and human capital delivery for organizations since 2008. His expertise comes from having lead deal teams from inception through implementation across the entire labor continuum from search to enterprise-wide workforce and technology solutions. His passion is helping organizations reposition themselves to create the future they desire to meet their operational and financial goals, while ensuring patient care delivery. He received his BS from Lock Haven University, MBA from East Carolina University, and is Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is based out of Atlanta, GA and can be reached at tstrauss@hwlworks.com or 770-298-0122.
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