The oncology landscape is changing. Healthcare reform initiatives and market forces have caused more hospitals and healthcare systems to expand their service lines to include cancer treatment as part of their efforts to provide more comprehensive care. This shift is creating staffing challenges for hospitals and health systems as well as standalone cancer centers. Hospitals and healthcare systems There is a shortage of oncologists. A workforce study conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) estimates that there will be a shortage of 2,550 to 4,080 oncologists by 2020. With more hospitals and health systems seeking to hire more oncologists from a limited pool of candidates, many will struggle with recruiting the perfect permanent employee. Hospitals and health systems located in rural areas may find it particularly difficult, as they typically struggle with attracting candidates. As hospitals and healthcare systems begin to develop and expand oncology service lines, many turn to locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners. Facilities often use a mix of permanent employees and locum tenens providers to get the new service lines off the ground and ensure they continue to operate in an efficient manner. Locum tenens staffing is also a great way to ensure patient access to care as a department’s patient volume begins to grow. A locum tenens oncologist working part time can help bridge the gap if the increase is not large enough to justify an additional employee. A locum tenens physician will allow the organization to continue to keep pace with expanding patient volume, avoid turning away patients who are in need of care, and maintain revenue streams. Standalone cancer centers The increasing number of oncology departments within hospitals and healthcare systems poses a significant challenge for standalone cancer centers, according to a brief authored by Dr. Andrew Ziskind, Managing Director and Clinical Solution Leader with Huron Healthcare. Standalone centers can expect to see fewer referrals from hospitals and health systems that have established their own oncology programs and prefer to keep patients in-house. Locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners give standalone cancer centers the flexibility they need to efficiently adjust to changing patient volume while maintain a high standard of care and access. Locum tenens providers can also be used to fill staffing gaps when permanent employees are on vacation, ill, or on leaves-of-absence, thus ensuring the organization can continue to provide appropriate care. Cost effectiveness Locum tenens physicians can be an important source of income for organizations that know how to properly bill for their services. Organizations can bill for the service provided by a locum using the absent provider’s national provider identification (NPI) number. Facilities that use locum tenens oncologists to supplement existing staff can also bill for the provider’s services. With help from the locum tenens agency’s credentialing and licensing department, organizations can enroll their locum with the appropriate health plans and insurance companies to ensure services can be billed. Furthermore, locums tenens physicians are worth the investment because they help ensure organizations maintain patient and employee satisfaction. A well-staffed facility means patients will continue to have timely access to top-quality services. Also, facilities that rely on locum tenens physicians to cover extra shifts or help with high volume do not need to burden their employees with extra work and risk burnout.