My last post, “A Profile of Locum Tenens Providers: Part I,” reviewed the demographic and professional characteristics of a group of locum tenens providers in the year 2000. Since that survey took place, the landscape of healthcare has changed dramatically:
- In 2002, the Health Center Growth Initiative expanded the number of community health centers;
- In 2003, the Medicare Drug Improvement, and Modernization Act created a subsidized prescription medication benefit;
- In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that more than 15 percent of the population lacked health insurance;
- In 2008, the Mental Health Parity Act required insurance companies to treat psychiatric disorders equally to physical conditions;
- In 2009, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act invested in health information technology and attempted to expand the primary care workforce; and
- In 2010, the House of Representative passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance coverage to all Americans (Longest, 2015).
Healthcare reform has made incredible strides in increasing access to needed preventive and medical services and reducing insurance fraud and abuse. But how has this affected locum tenens providers?
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 31,000 primary care and 63,700 specialists by 2025 because of the increased demand ignited by healthcare reform. Interestingly, a recent study conducted by the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters found that as this provider shortage continues to increase exponentially, so too does the demand for locum tenens positions. With this immense, looming shortage, the demographic and professional characteristic of locum tenens providers is evolving.
Compared to locum tenens providers in 2000, current providers are younger. In 2014, for example, 16 percent of providers began locum tenens work immediately after residency compared with only 8.5 percent in 2000. Moreover, the percentage of locum tenens providers re-entering the workforce from retirement has decreased over time. In 2014, 70 percent of locum providers practiced in either specialty or subspecialty care, compared with 73 percent in the year 2000. Overall, in 2014, 44,000 physicians held locum tenens positions, a 69 percent growth in less than 12 years.
While provider demographics have changed, their motivation for choosing locums work has remained constant over the past decade. In 2000, the main motivations for accepting a locum position included the ability to practice part-time, need for flexible schedule, desire for higher income, interest in traveling, interest in a different practice setting, and freedom from administrative duties. Similarly, in 2014, providers cited freedom and flexibility, salary, fewer politics, travel, and professional development as noteworthy benefits of temporary positions.
The healthcare landscape has changed dramatically over the last 15 years; reform has increased access and affordability while encouraging cost containment and technological innovation.