As the number of primary care physicians across the country decreases, the number of locum tenens is increasing. Locum tenens, pronounced lōh-kum tē-nenz, is a Latin phrase that means “to hold the place of or to substitute for.” Born in medieval times when the Catholic Church provided temporary clergy to short-staffed parishes, the term now also applies to physicians who substitute or hold interim positions at medical facilities.
The number of hospitals using temporary physicians rose from 22% in 2009 to 55% in 2013 according to a report from Staff Care, a division of AMN Healthcare. The report also indicates that 90% of the 230 facilities surveyed used temporary physicians in the last 12 months.
In the early 1970s, a federal grant was awarded to the University of Utah for the purpose of providing physician staffing services to rural health clinics in medically under-served areas of the western United States. The program proved so successful that many hospital administrators and physicians began calling for locum tenens physician staffing assistance, and today, demand has grown beyond just the rural areas.
Normally, the relationship of locum tenens and hospital is mutually beneficial. The hospital is able to fill in staffing gaps and the physician is able to gain a wider range of experience in different locations.
But how does the hospital know if the temporary physician will be both a good fit and competent to do the job?  Will they be able to keep up with the expected pace of the hospital?  Will they leave behind a positive or negative impact on the patients they treat? Will they contribute to the safety culture your organization has worked so hard to build?
While most locum tenens staffing companies make sure all required credentials and skills are satisfied, they are financially motivated to fill the vacancy. A comprehensive credentialing service, one that verifies, records and stores data beyond diplomas could provide the needed transparency directly to member hospitals so they can make more informed decisions. Peer reviews, experience logs, sanction checks and survey results could all be used in the decision process. Since the credentials will follow the physician, hospitals would not be left to make decisions based on simply trusting the locum tenens agency but rather on the comprehensive credentials picture of the physician’s backgrounds.

Credentialing is one way your healthcare facility can improve the safety of your patients, but did you know that it can also improve your bottom line? To learn more about the cost advantages of credentialing, download our white paper, Can Your Hospital Afford Not to Implement a Comprehensive Credentialing Program?

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