Locum Tenens Trends 2017

Medical office - middle-aged male doctor greeting patient, shaking hands.

The locum tenens industry is experiencing a “boom time” of sorts after the great recession and the implementation of the ACA.

The factors contributing to this growth include pent up patient demand from the recession, an improving economy with employment and insurances increases, the Accountable Care Act and greater job mobility for physicians.

With the better opportunity climate created for the locum tenens physician; there are some troubling developments to look out for in 2017. With the rapid growth of locum tenens agencies, the hospital based recruiter may get as many as 30 to 60 calls per day! If this hospital administrator answered every call they would not have time to do their jobs. Out of this trend grew Management Service Providers and Vendor Management Systems. The MSP manages all aspects of the locum tenens placement and management of the physician when submitted by an agency. This is accomplished through a web portal. It sounds efficient but that is where it stops. The VMS is more portal oriented on the front end of the placement and then the client hospital gets involved after accepting the physician candidate. The MSP limits the ability of the representing agency to control the scheduling of the physician, the timely filing of time sheets and always the slow pay of those invoices to the vendors providing the services. Also, the agency which covers your malpractice has no contact with the client. If a claim is made, it is doubtful that the hospital will even let the MSP know that an incident or claim has been filed. In its wake, a lot of potentially good business is held captive by less than efficient organizations. On the VMS side of the ledger, it is beneficial to have the agency communicate and invoice through the client, but problems arise here as well. With a VMS they can contract with up to 100 agencies. This means for every opening, especially in popular locum tenens specialties such as general surgery, CV submissions can be as much as 30 physicians per job! This overwhelms the person going through the CV’s, and then when they finally chose, that physician may have been put forth and not even contacted.

With Physicians being employed, this has created more opportunities for career mobility than in the past. This trend will continue and will naturally create more and more openings. Specialties long dormant during the recession are making a comeback such as anesthesiology, neurosurgery, radiology and cardiology to name a few. Also, sub specialists are now in demand as never before. As always, primary care specialist are in short supply so demand will always be through the roof.

Locum tenens rates will continue to increase to the Client Hospitals as the physician’s rates will go up based on demand. Pushing back on this by the hospitals will be futile as the supply and demand issues will not be going away fro the remainder of the century.

Keep your powder dry, as there is due to be a locum tenens correction coming up in the near future, but certainly it will be short and will only cause a disruption to the agencies not the physician providers.