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A Guide to Locum Tenens and How to Manage Them

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In the past decades, the healthcare industry as a whole has seen unprecedented labor shortages, which were greatly exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. With record rates of burnout, the Great Resignation, and other factors seemingly outside of the industry's control, healthcare facilities have turned toward locum tenens to fill the gaps. 

But the exploding utilization has uncovered a new pain point for many hospitals — how do we manage this new workforce? The overall locum tenens management process is very time consuming for most systems and in today’s rapidly changing market, there is a need to change this paradigm to streamline processes and remove redundancies. 

Within this piece we'll highlight points you should know about locum tenens as well as how you can manage them more efficiently to improve ROI.


What is a Locum Tenens Physician?

The phrase locum tenens is Latin for "in place of" or "placeholder". So, as you may expect, a locum tenens physician is one that works in place of another for a predetermined time period.

Locum tenens are most frequently used during temporary staffing gaps, such as when a doctor goes on vacation, takes a sabbatical, or when the hospital is searching for a permanent replacement after a resignation. Unfortunately, though, over the last few years, due to the increased time to recruit permanent staff, overall supply and demand shortages, etc.; locum tenens physicians and providers have become a mainstay in most health systems. 

One key point to note is that these are also not individuals who cannot find a permanent position, etc., but are high quality physicians and providers who choose to work this lifestyle. In fact, over 92% of locum tenens physicians have held permanent positions in their careers; and all 50 states utilize them to varying degrees. 


Advantages to Using Locum Tenens

Locum tenens are utilized in a number of scenarios to provide uninterrupted patient care:


1. Locum Tenens Address Labor Shortages

In recent years, locum tenens physicians have been utilized to address labor shortages. Unprecedented rates of burnout have led to a mass exodus of employees; and despite some recovery since the peak of the pandemic, healthcare employment levels remain about 1.1% lower than pre-pandemic and shortages are expected to continue. This means that elective surgeries may be put on hold, extra stress put on workers makes them prone to errors, and life-threatening surgeries may become deprioritized. All of these then affect the bottom-line financial figures, satisfaction scores, and overall patent care delivery for the health system. 

Given this shift, locum tenens have proven to be a life raft for hospitals suffering from workforce shortages due to catastrophe or otherwise. Surveys report that locum tenens physicians provided relief for 88% of all healthcare facilities in 2022. This allowed hospitals to maintain normal levels of operation and provide quality patient care.


2. Improve Patient Outcomes

Healthcare facilities are well-oiled machines; and when one part fails, the rest are sure to suffer. Regardless of circumstance, locum tenens allow facilities to maintain stability in the face of adversity so that patient outcomes, and thus satisfaction, does not suffer.

When patients are satisfied, they are more likely to complete treatment regimens, be less stressed during recovery, return for care, and recommend their physician to friends and family. As career professionals, locum tenens physicians are able to fill gaps wherever possible to maintain exceptional levels of patient care.


3. Strengthen Underserved Areas and Populations

The unfortunate reality is that physician shortages have put strains on healthcare systems across the U.S., meaning not every geographic area has access to quality healthcare. This is particularly true for rural and poverty-stricken areas. Locum tenens are one of the more favored solutions to mitigate these shortages and provide marginalized communities with accessible healthcare.


How to Manage Locum Tenens More Effectively

As you may already know, with the increased utilization of locum tenens come new challenges regarding how to manage them. Between schedules, timekeeping, invoice management, credentials, and other data to keep in mind for each individual physician, things can become highly complex very quickly.

HWL provides an all-in-one, easy-to-use platform that streamlines and simplifies locum tenens management. Designed by experts in locums management, the platform automates all steps in the locums process so you can gain insights into your locums usage and the associated costs through real-time reports and dashboards.


Partnership Features

  • Hybrid or fully managed options
  • Automated name-clearing and known-provider process
  • Review bids, manage interviews schedules, conduct screenings
  • Track costs, quality, and vendor performance
  • Approve all time and expenses 
  • Standardized contract management
  • Vendor and user onboarding/training
  • KPI reporting and vendor performance management
  • Consultation and guidance of industry best-practices
  • Scheduling services
  • 24/7 staffing support

Read more about how our platform's locum tenens management features helped clients here.


HWL Will Help You Manage Locum Tenens More Efficiently

Recruiting and acquiring locum tenens has never been more essential. With the increased demands placed on healthcare professionals, it’s becoming more difficult as well.

Fortunately, HWL can assist your organization in optimizing and improving your healthcare workforce so your organization remains resilient and flexible, even during times as challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic, and whatever lies beyond.

To learn more about how the experts at HWL can assist your team, contact us today at info@hwlmsp.com.

March 07, 2023/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 solution design 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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