Given all the changes taking place in the healthcare industry, many healthcare leaders expect their service line revenue to grow and are planning to expand their service offerings. Savvy service line managers will use locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners to maintain efficient staffing levels and ensure the success of any and all service lines. Service lines are poised for growth Survey results published in a HealthLeaders Media report, “ Service Lines Grow Amid Strategic Challenges“, say that 75% of hospitals plan to expand their top service lines, such as cardiology and oncology, and 50% of hospitals plan to establish new service lines, including pediatrics, imaging, neurosciences, rehabilitative medicine, respiratory, gastroenterology, obesity, health promotion, medical homes, and retail health. The survey respondents gave a variety of reasons for expanding service lines. The most common factor driving their decision is improving clinical performance (72%). This makes sense as hospitals prepare for the eventual shift from volume-based payments to a value-based payment system. Value-based payments make it important that hospitals provide efficient, quality care or risk losing reimbursement. For example, the Readmission Reduction Program penalizes hospitals who have a high rate of 30-day readmissions for heart attack and heart failure patients. Hospitals that invest more resources in the cardiology department are in a better position to prevent these readmissions for occurring. Other popular factors influencing service line growth include revenue stream (71%), patient population (71%) and system planning (46%). These responses seem to indicate that hospitals leaders are experiencing increased demand for certain hospital services and see an opportunity to increase revenue by investing in new or more efficient service lines. More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said accountable care organization (ACO) development is driving their service line expansion efforts. One of the requirements for operating an ACO is the ability to provide a comprehensive range of services for an entire patient population. To achieve this, hospitals can either partner with nearby providers to supplement their own service offerings or provide a comprehensive selection of service lines within their own organization. In either case, service lines within an ACO must be running at maximum efficiency in order for the organization to provide the best quality care and take advantage of shared saving opportunities. Staffing problems threaten revenue Staffing is one of the keys to maintaining or establishing a successful, profitable service line. Hospital service lines that do not have enough providers available to meet patient demand and fill appointments risk losing business. In an article published in Becker’s Hospital Review, Marshall Maglothin, principal at Blue Oak Consulting, says a healthy service line is able to provide patents with three appointment options within three business days of the appointment request. If the third next available appointment is greater than nine days from the point of scheduling, the service line may be losing business, Mr. Maglothin says. Patients who want or need an earlier appointment will likely take their business elsewhere. To prevent this from happening, healthcare organization must ensure they have the staff available to meet patient demand. Finding the optimum staffing level can be particularly challenging for some facilities because demand for services are sometime subject to peaks and valleys. During a surge in volume, a department may become overbooked, which will require staff to pick up extra shifts or work overtime. If overbooking frequently occurs, the department manager may want to consider staffing additional staff. If overbooking is not frequent enough to merit a new employee, using a locum tenens physician or nurse practitioner is often an effective solution. Locum tenens provide a flexible solution Locum tenens staffing is a flexible staffing solution that allows healthcare organizations and hospitals efficiently manage staffing levels and mixes in light of changing demand. Staff leaders often use locum tenens providers to clear backlogs when overscheduling occurs. This eliminates the need to ask existing staff to take on extra shifts, which can lead to staff burnout. Facilities that can’t justify adding a new employee can use locums to adequately manage their population’s needs. Facilities that have decided they need to hire a new employee can also benefit from locum tenens staffing. The process of recruiting and staffing a permanent employee can take several months, or even years. Service line managers can use locum tenens providers to fill the position, so that they can focus on taking the time needed to recruit and hire their next permanent employee. The same can be said for healthcare organizations that are planning to open a brand new service line. Staff managers can use a mix of permanent employees and locum tenens providers to get the service line off the ground, instead of waiting to fill the entire department with permanent employees. Healthcare organizations and hospitals should see locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners as reliable tools that can help them ensure the success of any and all service lines. To learn more about the advantages of using locum tenens, visit www.bartonassociates.com.