When you need a physician to fill in for a couple of shifts or even a few months, hiring a locum tenens physician is a great option. Locums provide continuity of care to patients and help lessen the workload for physicians currently on staff. However, it’s no secret that locums also affect your bottom line.
“In our industry, the assumption is that locum tenens providers are too expensive,” says Bob Shumard, director of client services at LocumsMart.
Shumard believes that when it comes to hiring locums, health care organizations are too focused on a physician’s rate – and they neglect to see how using technology can produce cost savings while still providing continuity of care.
Finding the best care for your patients
Many health care organizations are too focused on getting a lower rate for each locum physician that they hire, Shumard says. “We think that’s a mistake. While I understand price is important, if you beat up on the agencies trying to get a one percent discount, what you’re going to do is get fewer bids per job.”
Fewer bids per job equals fewer qualified providers who want to work at your facility, which ultimately impacts the standard of care your patients receive. Receiving more bids ensures that you’ll have your pick of a wide range of qualified physicians, so you can select the best one for the job – just as you’d do when hiring a permanent staff member.
“Providers aren’t commodities, and they don’t want to be paid below market rate, so they’re going to go with a different option,” says Shumard. “You’re much better off focusing on paying fair market value.”
Generating value by improving processes
Instead of rates, hospitals should focus on their internal processes to generate value, says Shumard. By improving things like billing and contract workflows, healthcare organizations can save far more money than a one percent discount on a provider would generate.
By examining the locum tenens workflow, you’ll gain a better understanding of where efficiencies can be made and where cost-savings can occur. Shumard says a lot of these can be done with technology, and the LocumsMart platform allows healthcare organizations to streamline a lot of their processes.
“Our clients get access to things like standardized, evergreen national contracts, invoice consolidation, timesheet compliance, corporate authorization, and improved billing and enrollment processes,” says Shumard.
One large healthcare organization has worked with LocumsMart to build a payor enrollment system for all of their contracted providers and has seen measurable results over the past year. “If you consider new revenue to be equal to cost savings, it amounts to a 9% discount on spend,” says Shumard. “The total new revenues for this customer were over three million dollars.”
The organization was also able to work with LocumsMart to ensure all of its locums providers were enrolled with payors so that patients would be billed for an in-network visit.
Technology makes it possible
Shumard concedes that many healthcare organizations are handling locums physicians like they always have, and “this type of enrolling and billing for locums providers was probably not possible before technology.”
With the ability to now automate many processes in the locums workflow – from soliciting bids to approving timecards and processing invoices – healthcare organizations can save time on paperwork while also getting a better idea of their overall locums spend.
“I think this is something that’ll grow in the future,” says Shumard. “Other healthcare organizations will follow, either using LocumsMart to do it for them or creating their own internal process. There’s so much money at stake.”
“If we use technology and can help the hospitals make money on these providers that we’re contracting, that’s a good thing for our industry and our hospitals. The hospitals need staffing and the agencies do a wonderful job of finding providers, but if we can make it a more economically sustainable system for all parties, that’s ideal.”