As the locum tenens industry continues to deliver much-needed support to healthcare providers, changes to the system are influencing how locums do their jobs. Moreover, locum tenens is evolving in-line with the current demands that our system places on them. This is good in the sense that locum tenens is also commanding more respect.
Locums can expect ongoing evolution within their industry throughout 2019. In some ways, locums will be on the forefront of how medicine, in general, changes over the next 12 months. It is with that in mind that locum doctors should pay attention to a number of key trends for 2019. These trends will shape how locum medicine is delivered.
1. Increased Adoption of Telemedicine
It is clear that telemedicine has not caught on to the extent experts had hoped. Fewer than 20% of private and group practices in this country utilize telemedicine as a matter of daily course. However, common sense dictates that the tide will begin to turn at some point. That turning point may occur in 2019.
Telemedicine offers the promise of treating more patients from a single location by using technologies like video conferencing. It is technology perfectly suited to the locum physician who may be physically located in a regional hospital while offering primary care to rural patients located within 100 miles of the facility. It could be that locum tenens will eventually lead the effort to bring telemedicine into the mainstream.
2. A Greater Emphasis on Primary Care
Locum medicine is obviously not limited to primary care and family practice, but it looks like a greater emphasis on those two specialties is in the offing for 2019. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the shortage of primary care physicians could approach 50,000 by 2030 if current trends continue unabated.
It stands to reason then that medical schools and recruiters alike will be pushing new doctors toward primary care with greater emphasis. Likewise, locum physicians are likely to see a larger number of primary care opportunities available in 2019. Primary care still represents the biggest need in terms of available doctors.
3. More Emphasis on Work-Life Balance
A number of disturbing reports over the last five or six years have shown a marked increase in physician burnout. There are a few reasons for this, including the previously mentioned doctor shortage and many of the new requirements of medical reform. As such, expect to see a greater emphasis put on work-life balance among doctors.
A better work-life balance is one of the benefits of working as a locum. As such, locums can expect to see greater numbers of doctors join their ranks in search of a more balanced career.
4. Fewer Private and Group Practices
Next, locum physicians should expect to be working at fewer private and group practices in the coming year. Such practices continue to decline in volume as hospitals seek to move patient care away from the practice model and toward an institutional model. Along the same lines, locums will be filling in for hospitalists more often in 2019.
5. More Emphasis on Social Factors
Finally, our new emphasis on value-based medicine has medical experts recommending that doctors take a stronger look at certain social factors that impact patient health. Doctors are being urged to pay attention to where patients live and work, their past histories, their home lives, etc. Locum physicians will not be exempt from this new way of thinking. In fact, they may come to rely more on social factors due to not having long-established relationships with patients.