Many locum tenens providers choose to work in rural areas treating underserved populations. Providing care to a population that is in dire need often yields a feeling of satisfaction.
In these settings, doctors can practice medicine without the bureaucracy of tenen countered in large healthcare organizations. Some providers cite an improved focus on treating patients, paying off debt, trying new settings, and enjoying a slower pace of life.
Stepping into as mall-town role can refresh and rejuvenate a provider who feels burned out by the frantic pace of a much larger hospital setting. Also, Physicians who grew up in more rural towns and villages feel at home practicing in the familiar atmosphere.
Doctors and Physicians also encounter a variety of patients. For example, a doctor is less likely to treat level 1 traumas and emergencies in a rural healthcare setting than in an urban environment but may see a higher ratio of patients dealing with chronic conditions.
Some providers prefer the type of patients treated and will be more attracted to working with less acute trauma but more chronic care in the setting.
Small towns and rural communities suffer the most from shortages in the healthcare system. There are fewer generalists and even fewer specialists available for patient care in rural communities. Patients may find they must drive hours to see a doctor, especially for rare or more serious conditions.
Locum tenens provides a solution for medical practices in communities that are feeling the Physician shortage. Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy study shows that only 11% of physicians practice in rural areas, but 20% of the U.S. population resides there. This disparity in care affects millions of Americans.
There are several ways that locum tenens physicians can transform healthcare in rural settings:
Adding a provider into your family practice will increase the number of patient care visits and address any backlog of patients waiting for an appointment. More routine screening appointments and expanded testing can identify health problems earlier, saving lives.
Additionally, increased revenue can support the expansion of facilities or help to hire more staff. In general, adding a primary care provider can positively impact all aspects of a practice and deliver services more quickly and conveniently.
Office hours can be increased, with the ability to offer more convenient evening or weekend appointments. In general, patient care will improve with a better doctor-to-patient ratio.
Using temporary staffing solutions to fill this role — whether during hiring a new full-time doctor or deciding if the practice can utilize an additional physician — can increase revenue by increasing patient load.
Since patients in a rural setting must often drive hours to see a specialist, this inconvenient and costly process often prohibits adequate care. To remedy this hassle, small-town practices can contract with locum tenens specialists for blocks of time, for example, a three-month contract. Patient appointments can become pressed into this block of time on a yearly or biannual basis, and practice scan offer specialty care like dermatology, endocrinology, and urology.
Patients will receive necessary care, and revenue will increase exponentially based on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that might otherwise go untreated. Many medical specialties are appropriate for condensed scheduling on an annual basis, and locum tenens are a great alternative to support this focused care.
Because of a lack of providers, Physicians in the acute care setting are prone to burnout, especially in small towns where there may not be anyone else to cover shifts. By providing relief to acute care staff through contracting with locum tenens, facilities have a better chance of retaining long-term regular staff, staving off early retirements due to extreme burnout.
In the rural health services setting, a practice may consider adding a specialist, but management may be unclear if there is a true or only a perceived need for a new type of full-time provider. Hiring a locum tenens specialist on a trial basis to deliver care is a terrific way to assess if an area can support a long-term provider.
For example, if patients are now driving 60 miles to see a cardiologist, hiring a contracted locum tenens cardiologist can assess how quickly and completely the schedule fills. If the schedule is routinely booked and a waiting list develops, the practice may be more inclined to add a permanent full-time cardiologist to the staff.
The nuances of small-town medical practice create an opportunity for targeted growth, improved quality of care, and comprehensive service delivery in healthcare.
By considering the addition of locum tenens providers to your team, you can ideally position your facility and community for better outcomes, long-term success, and improved healthcare for patients.