Hospitals that cannot find the permanent physicians they need and are relying on temporary doctors to fill gaps, a new survey suggests.
Conducted by Staff Care, a national temporary physician staffing firm and company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS), the survey polled hospital and medical group managers about their use of temporary physicians, also known as locum tenens. The majority of those surveyed (75 percent) said their facilities had used temporary physicians sometime in the last 12 months, and 41 percent said they are currently looking for temporary physicians. The primary reason hospitals and medical groups use temporary doctors, cited by 57 percent of those surveyed, is to fill in until a permanent doctor can be found.
“There are simply too few physicians to fill all the available vacancies today,” notes Sean Ebner, president of Staff Care. “Temporary doctors are providing critical, interim patient care for many healthcare facilities until they can find the full-time physicians they need.”
The survey also suggests which types of physicians are in the most demand as temporary practitioners. Number one on the list are primary care physicians such as family doctors and general internists, closely followed by psychiatrists and other behavioral health specialists. Twenty percent of the positions Staff Care was asked to fill in the last year were for primary care doctors, 19 percent for behavioral care providers, 16 percent for anesthesia providers, 10 percent for hospitalists and eight percent for surgeons. According to Ebner, the number of physicians trained in the U.S. has remained flat for over 20 years, while the population has aged and grown by some 50 million people. Shortages are greatest in primary care, but span the spectrum of other specialties, he notes.
Included in the survey is a poll of physicians who work on a temporary basis asking about their experiences. Ninety-seven percent of physicians indicated they are accepted by patients on their temporary assignments and 84 percent said they are accepted by physician colleagues, suggesting that temporary physicians have become a customary part of the physician landscape. Eighty-one percent of physicians said that temporary practice is either as satisfying or more satisfying than permanent practice.
“Temporary practice is an increasingly popular alternative for many doctors who are tired of the reimbursement, malpractice, and bureaucratic challenges they face today,” Ebner says. “It reduces the hassles and allows doctors to do what they do best, which is to provide superior patient care.”
Complete results of Staff Care’s 2012 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends is available below. For more information, visit www.staffcare.com.