While 2020 was the year of change, it highlighted globally what hospitals and medical practices across the country do to adapt in the face of change. Whether it’s a local natural disaster or shifts in public policy, healthcare facilities across the country may have change on a dime and quickly adapt patient care service delivery.
In some cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals instituted widespread cancellations of elective surgeries and procedures to optimize PPE reserves and limit the number of patients in the facility. While these were undoubtedly tough decisions to make, the entire pandemic has presented one tough challenge after another.
In general, hospitals experienced an immense amount of lost revenue during the pandemic — revenue on which hospitals depend for basic operating needs. An American Hospital Association (AHA) report in mid-2020 estimated losses could total more than $323 billion through December 2020. A similar KaufmanHall report from February 2021 estimates hospitals will lose another $53-$122 billion in 2021 due to the pandemic.
The Impact of Cancellations on Procedure Scheduling
In response to ongoing public concern, patients and physicians canceled innumerable procedures. Similarly, basic office visits ceased, and elective procedures deemed non-emergent moved into a holding pattern, with no specific timeframe available for scheduling.
Many patients with significant needs — joint replacements, back surgeries, diagnostic procedures — waited for care, and some have continued waiting more than a year later. However, surgery for the degenerated knee causing pain with every step and routine mammograms are still necessary. In effect, patients needed to delay their surgeries and procedures and understandably did. As time passed, the waiting list just continued to grow.
How Hospitals Can Start to Recover
Administrators are tasked to think creatively to put profits for hospitals and care practices back on the road to recovery. An immediate solution is to offer services to patients in different ways to increase billing.
Improve outpatient care: Non-emergent patients want to spend as little time in the hospital as necessary. The desire to avoid overnight stays leads to avoiding routine care and surgeries. By improving and expanding outpatient procedures, doctors can entice their patients to return with appealing one-day options.
Increase surgery schedules: Instead of maintaining a decreasing scheduling model, hospitals can increase their surgery schedule by hiring more surgeons or temporary staffing. Eliminating long waiting lists for surgeries will rapidly increase revenues.
Target patients who need care: Use patient records to find those overdue for care or who canceled but didn’t reschedule and reach out via email, text, or phone call to request rescheduling. For patients with significant needs, explain your regulations and urge them to try outpatient services.
Make Money with New Staffing Models
With hospitals facing novel medical and financial challenges, the time has arrived to explore new, long-term solutions. Specifically, temporary staffing is a valuable option for hospitals and medical providers hoping to recoup some of the millions of lost revenue dollars.
Locum tenens providers offer an immediate increase in the volume of patient visits or procedures that a hospital or medical practice can offer. With highly trained providers primed to practice in any specialty, hospitals can respond to more patient needs, complete more procedures, and provide much-needed medical/surgical intervention.
Locum tenens physicians and staff are qualified to perform everything – from routine visits to complicated surgeries – and help address the understandable backlog of cases. In essence, by utilizing specially trained locum tenens staff, patients are more satisfied having their needs addressed, and hospitals are better prepared to withstand the financial challenges of the pandemic.
Address the Backlog of Routine Care
In addition to canceled office visits, the nationwide state of emergency caused many hospitals to stop offering routine procedures like mammograms and colonoscopies classified as non-urgent. This created a new dilemma. Healthcare systems needed to slot in overdue procedures amongst the high baseline need for routine care.
Temporary staffing is an ideal solution to this problem. Hospitals can efficiently deliver much-needed care to a broad population of patients by adding providers, even for short-term contracts, while recouping lost revenue from the pandemic closures. It is truly a win-win for patients and hospitals.
Increase Temporary Staffing
Locum tenens staffing companies deliver highly trained physicians and providers to vacant positions. Ordinarily, staff is available to address the full spectrum of medical services and specialties. With fewer initial administrative employment hurdles, many hospitals find locum tenens staffing a critical component for recouping losses in a timely manner.
Staffing companies complete the pre-employment tasks such as interviewing, license verification, background check, and reference checks. Facilities can quickly and efficiently put providers into necessary positions throughout the hospital system. With locum tenens, there is no need to wait for credentialing; providers are ready to work.
How Else Can Temporary Staffing Help?
In some cases, during a natural disaster, hospitals are prompted to enact staffing layoffs due to the initial lower patient census. In these cases, sometimes providers find alternate positions in new geographic locations. When services ramp up to normal levels of activity, hospitals feel a staffing shortage, with high-level job positions unfilled.
Recruiting takes time, but locum tenens staff can immediately fill the gap while hospitals seek to hire permanent providers. By taking advantage of locum tenens availability, hospitals and providers can begin to recoup much-needed revenue, which moves the facility toward financial success.
In general, adding locum tenens staff and lowering the provider-to-patient ratio positively impacts patient experience and outcomes. Because locum tenens staffing allows for custom solutions to each hospital’s vacancies, patients receive treatment more quickly, which translates into faster business results. In short, faster returns will yield a speedier budget recovery.
How Much Can Temporary Staffing Help Hospitals Recoup?
Ultimately, the numbers are impressive. A 2016 survey relating to physician inpatient/outpatient revenue by Merritt Hawkins reveals that on average, a physician can generate $1,560,688 per year for a hospital – overall generated revenue will fluctuate, depending on the specialty and/or procedure. Without physicians in place to provide billable services, the gap worsens in operating expenses and income.
Hiring a locum tenens provider is a cost-effective strategy that provides a substantial return on investment for any hospital in need.
The Locum Tenens Solution
Overall, unprecedented times call for new solutions. Emotional, physical, and financial stresses affect virtually every aspect of healthcare. Planning for the future can help head off fiscal pitfalls. Now is the time to consider alternate staffing solutions to address the widespread gaps in healthcare.
By adding short-term staff, hospitals can work towards clearing their surgery calendars, catching up on routine procedures, and limit their costs and time spent recruiting new staff. Not only do patients reap the rewards, but hospitals do, too. By optimizing timely patient care and adequate staffing through locum tenens, hospitals and medical practices can augment their financial recovery and be on the way to a robust future.