Finding proficient physicians to meet your staffing demands may be a daunting task. Whether you are confronting a short-term vacancy, a peak season rush, or a persistent shortage, the appointment of locum tenens physicians can serve as a practical and advantageous option.
Locum tenens physicians, who work on an interim or contract basis across various healthcare establishments, can maintain the continuity of care, alleviate staff burden, and infuse your team with fresh expertise and viewpoints. According to the 2023 State of Locum Tenens Report by CHG Healthcare, the healthcare industry is turning to locum tenens providers at historic rates. The report also reveals that demand for locum psychiatrists and oncologists has grown since 2020. Moreover, experts predict that locum tenens will grow by high single digits in 2023, driven by clinician shortages and COVID deferred treatments.
Locum tenens represents one of the fastest-growing staffing segments in the healthcare market, which was valued at $22.5 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.7% from 2023 to 2030.
Inviting locum tenens physicians into your organization carries several potential benefits:
- Adaptability: The duration of a locum tenens engagement can be tailored to your specific needs and budget, from brief stints to more prolonged tenures. Furthermore, you can modify the volume and specialty of locum tenens physicians in line with your evolving requirements.
- Excellence: Locum tenens physicians undergo rigorous screening and credentialing by established agencies, ensuring their compatibility with your facility's standards and prerequisites. Their experience across varied contexts and specialties can elevate patient care quality and satisfaction.
- Economy: Onboarding locum tenens physicians can lead to savings on recruitment expenses, payroll taxes, employee benefits, and malpractice insurance premiums. You can also prevent revenue leakage resulting from vacant positions or curtailed services.
However, the process of hiring locum tenens physicians may present certain obstacles and risks that you need to acknowledge and address. The credentialing process, in particular, is an integral part of hiring locum tenens physicians.
Understanding Credentialing's Role in the Locum Tenens Hiring Process
Credentialing entails the verification of a physician's identity, qualifications, and capabilities before they are authorized to practice at a healthcare facility. This process is indispensable for maintaining high-quality healthcare, safeguarding patient well-being, and ensuring regulatory and accreditation compliance.
The appointment of locum tenens physicians involves dual-layer credentialing: internal (handled by the locum tenens agency recruiting and contracting the physician) and external (undertaken by the healthcare facility assigning the locum physician for a specific task).
Internal credentialing encompasses the collection and validation of various documents, such as:
- Proof of medical training, inclusive of residency and fellowship
- Medical school diploma
- Board certifications
- DEA certification
- Life-support certifications, e.g., advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
- Medical licenses
- Official name-change documents, if applicable
- ECFMG certification, if foreign-trained
- Professional references
It also includes contacting prior employers and hospitals where the physician maintains privileges to verify their reputation and performance.
External credentialing requires applying the information garnered from internal credentialing to the healthcare facility. The facility then conducts primary source verification and reviews the application as per its unique criteria and policies.
The credentialing timeframe can vary from a couple of weeks to several months, subject to the case's intricacies and urgency.
An extended credentialing process can pose challenges for healthcare facilities, particularly when they urgently require a locum physician. Trimming down the credentialing process even slightly can result in a substantial uptick in the facility's ROI.
Essential Checklist for Hiring Locum Tenens Doctors
Preparing Your Facility for Locum Tenens Doctors
Before you embark on your search for locum tenens physicians, ensure your facility is prepared to welcome and incorporate them. Consider the following actions:
- Understand the Need and Specialization
Determine your immediate and prospective staffing needs, along with the specialization, competencies, and experience you seek in a locum tenens physician. Furthermore, establish the scope of practice, duties, responsibilities, and expectations for this role.
- Establish Budget and Compensation
Allocate a pragmatic budget for the appointment of locum tenens physicians and design a compensation structure that fits your facility and the prevailing market. Account for additional expenses like travel, accommodation, malpractice insurance, taxes, and fees.
- Ready Your Current Team
Communicate with your permanent staff about the reasons and advantages of enlisting locum tenens physicians. Strive to create a positive and supportive work ambiance that welcomes and respects these temporary medical practitioners.
Finding the Right Locum Tenens Doctor
Choose an agency that boasts experience in your specialty and locale. Conduct an exhaustive and timely interview process that assesses the qualifications, capabilities, and fit of the locum tenens physician. Be sure to check their references and validate their credentials. Opt for the candidate who best aligns with your criteria and expectations.
The Credentialing Process
Once the suitable locum tenens physician is chosen, the credentialing process commences, granting them the right to practice at your facility. This involves:
- Verify Qualifications, Certifications, and Referenc
Ascertain the identity, education, training, licensure, board certification, DEA certification, life support certification, malpractice history, work history, and professional references of the locum tenens physician. You can use primary sources or rely on the verification conducted by the locum tenens agency.
- Malpractice and Licensure Verification
Ensure the locum tenens physician possesses sufficient malpractice insurance coverage that includes tail coverage for incidents that may occur during or post-assignment. Verify that they hold a valid medical license in your state or initiate the application process if necessary.
- Compliance with State-Specific Regulations
Adhere to any state-specific mandates or regulations applicable to the hiring of locum tenens physicians. For instance, some states might necessitate background checks, fingerprinting, drug testing, or supplementary documentation.
Drafting a Locum Tenens Contract
Before commencing the locum tenens physician's tenure, draft a fair, transparent contract detailing their assignment's terms and conditions. This includes:
- Craft a Fair Contract
Develop a contract specifying the duration, compensation, schedule, scope of practice, duties, responsibilities, expectations, termination clauses, confidentiality clauses, and dispute resolution clauses. Carefully review the contract and negotiate amendments, if required.
- Address Malpractice Insurance, Payment, and Scheduling
Outline how malpractice insurance will be provided and who bears the cost. Specify the payment terms and which expenses are covered or reimbursed. Clarify scheduling provisions and permitted flexibility or cancellations.
The Onboarding Process
Once the contract is endorsed, the onboarding of the locum tenens physician can begin, ensuring a smooth transition into your facility. This process involves:
- Extensive Orientation and Facility Tour
Provide a thorough orientation covering your facility’s policies, procedures, protocols, standards, and culture. Conduct a facility tour, guiding the locum tenens physician on their responsibilities and movement within the facility.
- Assure Smooth Integration and EHR System Training
Facilitate the locum tenens physician's integration with your permanent staff and provide access to all necessary resources and support. Train them on your electronic health records (EHR) system, ensuring they are adept at using it.
Understanding the Challenges in Hiring Locum Tenens Doctors
Employing locum tenens physicians is an effective solution to meet staffing requirements and enhance healthcare outcomes. Nevertheless, this process also entails certain challenges and risks. The credentialing process, a vital step in verifying a physician's identity, qualifications, and competencies before granting them privileges to practice at a healthcare facility, is one of the significant challenges.
Credentialing for locum tenens doctors can be an intricate and prolonged process involving multiple stakeholders, documents, and sources. CompHealth and AAPPR conducted a survey that revealed common issues in this process, including:
- Incomplete or inaccurate paperwork: Inaccurate or out-of-date information from the physician or the agency often results in delays or errors in the credentialing process.
- Agency interaction: Miscommunication or misalignment between the healthcare facility and the locum tenens agency could complicate the process.
- Job/provider match: The issue of the physician not meeting the qualifications or expectations of the position can lead to dissatisfaction or poor performance.
- Length of credentialing process: Prolonged credentialing process may hamper a healthcare facility's functioning, particularly in urgent situations.
To overcome these challenges, communication should be clear and frequent between the locum tenens agency and the physician about expectations, requirements, and the timeline for credentialing. Streamlining the process with standardized forms, checklists, and software tools could expedite the process. Furthermore, clear early communication of provider expectations and meticulous checking for potential issues in the physician's credentials or background can help ensure a smooth hiring and credentialing process.
The Role of Credentialing Platforms in Streamlining the Hiring Process
Credentialing is crucial for hiring locum tenens doctors, but it can be complex and time-consuming. This is where credentialing platforms, such as Credsy, can greatly simplify and accelerate the process.
Credsy minimizes the time and effort needed for the credentialing process by removing manual tasks and potential human errors. It can also expedite the verification and approval process with primary sources, electronic signatures, and automated alerts.
Credsy's user-friendly interface, transparent status updates, and easy access to credentials can improve the satisfaction and retention of locum tenens doctors. It can also increase the satisfaction of healthcare facilities by providing them with qualified locum tenens doctors promptly.
A locum tenens physician is a doctor who temporarily fills in for another physician on leave, or helps to meet the demand at a healthcare facility that's understaffed or experiencing a high patient influx.