Survey: Locum Tenens Use Is Increasing, Healthcare Facilities Finding Temporary Doctors Worth the Cost

Survey: Locum Tenens Use Is Increasing

For the past 11 years, Staff Care, a leading temporary physician (locum tenens) staffing firm, has conducted an annual survey to track locum tenens physician staffing trends.

The goal of the survey is to provide benchmark data that may be useful to physicians, physician recruiters, healthcare executives, policy makers, academics, journalists and others who monitor developments in the physician staffing industry.

The survey contains three parts. Part 1 examines surveys completed by locum tenens physician users. Part 2 looks at information from surveys completed by clinicians who work on a locum tenens basis. Part 3 is a review of the types of temporary clinicians Staff Care’s clients requested in calendar year 2013, which reflects current locum tenens staffing trends.

Today, we’re presenting key findings from Part 1 of the survey: Perspectives of healthcare facilities that use locum tenens physicians.

Key finding #1

There’s been a big jump in the number of healthcare facilities using locum tenens physicians. The number of facilities using locum tenens physicians increased dramatically, from 73.6 percent in 2012 to 90 percent in 2013. Why the big jump? Although many factors play a part, looming physician shortages and conditions created by healthcare reform are probably the largest.

The United States is in the midst of an emerging physician shortage that is expected to be exacerbated by a growing and aging population. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects that there will be a deficit of 131,000 physicians by the year 2025.

In addition, access to health insurance resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the imminent retirement of many older physicians, and an evolution in physician practice styles in which physicians are working fewer hours are contributing to the necessity of temporary physician staffing.

Key finding #2

Primary care practitioners are in the greatest demand as locum tenens physicians. The second most demanded locum tenens specialty is behavioral health. Demand is also rapidly accelerating for nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), as doctor shortages and patient load increases necessitate a more team-based approach to healthcare.  

Key finding #3

Eighty percent of healthcare facility administrators say locum tenens physicians are worth the cost. Although cost is considered a major drawback of using locum tenens, more administrators are recognizing that more revenue is actually lost by physician vacancies. For example, average monthly revenue generated by the following specialties are:

  • Primary care physicians: $172,297
  • General surgeon: $155,047
  • Internal medicine: $153,595
  • OB/GYN: $119,919

Source: Merritt Hawkins 2013 Physician Inpatient/Outpatient Revenue Survey

Learn more about locum tenens staffing trends and how healthcare facilities are embracing temporary physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants: Download the complete survey here.

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