Flexible Locums Management for the Post-Coronavirus World
The coronavirus pandemic has upended or suspended, at least in the short-term, customary models of healthcare delivery priorities and patient census. As the emergency burden on hospitals begins to subside, leaders are preparing their institutions to re-engage in elective procedures and standard treatment services. In doing so, they will need to rely heavily on locum tenens providers to close staffing shortages and provide needed relief for those on the frontline who have been working at a breakneck pace for months.
This moment can serve as an inflection point for organizations to adopt more efficient, more effective practices to obtain and manage temporary physician and advanced practitioner talent. Providers can take advantage of the flexibility afforded by accessing a broad range of locums agencies, promoting competition and high-quality, targeted searches. Institutions seeking to emerge from the pandemic crisis in a position of strength will find that a dynamic, competitive marketplace is ideally suited to contain costs while maintaining an adaptable locums staffing model.
Post-Crisis Workforce Challenges
With revenue-generating services – particularly high-margin elective procedures – on the back burner, facilities round the nation are straining their resources to address COVID-19. The financial ramifications of the pandemic have already cascaded throughout the industry, with several noteworthy restructurings among hospital systems and physician groups.
While healthcare organizations will be eager from a financial perspective to capitalize quickly on deferred services, their workforces may not be able to immediately dive into a heavy volume of elective procedures. Burnout is a prevalent concern among clinicians and support staff. Social distancing requirements and employee furloughs may need to stay in place for some time, complicating the staffing picture. All of these factors will impact productivity and require adaptive workforce management.
Locums play a critical role in avoiding shortfalls and maintaining consistent output of care. But the post-crisis labor market – for permanent staff and locums alike – presents its own set of considerations. The crisis may stimulate greater turnover as frustration induces some to seek new positions and as organizations step up recruiting for clinical professionals. Meanwhile, a significant share of the locums pool – particularly the nearly one-third of active and semi-retired physicians over 60 years old – may change their habits as a direct response to COVID-19, limiting geographic mobility or reducing hours. Younger locums tend to be more mobile and receptive to telehealth, which may be in greater demand. This unpredictable talent landscape will require thoughtful planning and dynamic flexibility.
Advantages of Open Platforms for Locums Management
While some organizations have long-standing relationships with agencies that operate as their primary locums vendor, the challenging COVID-19 response is exposing shortcomings in the traditional model. Relying on a single agency to fill the extraordinary demand required by the backlog of procedures, all while meaningfully limiting costs, is a difficult proposition. A platform for hands-on interaction with a variety of locums agencies brings key advantages for healthcare leaders:
Surge order management. Hospitals and healthcare systems will need to maintain relationships with an array of agencies to match talent with the scope and scale of rescheduled procedures. With the ramp-up likely to follow a variable trajectory, the ability to tap multiple sources rapidly will be beneficial. Flexible offerings that expedite contracting and implementation times – such as AMN Healthcare’s Open Talent Marketplace – can be particularly advantageous in these situations.
Cost management via dynamic, market-driven pricing. Leaders will seek to minimize labor costs in the face of a variable supply-and-demand equation. Physician post-crisis billing rates are an example of the many unknowns to be evaluated by decision-makers. An open platform promotes cost savings by allowing recruiting teams to closely monitor a range of available locums providers in real-time and negotiate terms that fit their budgets and schedules.
Broader provider access and agency pool. Agility will be the watchword for management of the crisis aftermath. A comprehensive and open platform lets organizations cast a wide net, bringing a diverse, flexible pool of locums talent to the table.
Flexibility is an invaluable asset when uncertainty strikes; healthcare leaders acutely understand its importance in preparing for post-crisis operations. A dynamic recruitment platform is uniquely tailored for today’s fluid situation. It deserves consideration as an important foundation to a locums management program that delivers agility, cost savings, and control over contracting and scheduling.