By Susanne Hodges and Charlie Lougheed for Healthcare Business Today

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Health protection. Medical and health care documents on office table with smart phone and laptop and two colleagues discussing data in the background

Every day, millions of healthcare professionals come to the aid of Americans. It’s what they do. It’s their job. But right now, those healthcare workers are in need of help. Workforce shortages are expected to grow over the next decade, leading to increased clinician burnout. Hospital systems already know this. But it’s an easier problem to identify than to address. A physician shortage of upwards of 140,000 is predicted by 2036. A recent report from the U.S. Chamber notes that by 2030, we can expect 42 of the 50 states to have a nursing shortage. Upwards of 70% of doctors in their 40s plan to retire early, in their 50s or early 60s. And, as Baby Boomers age and unhealthy lifestyles persist, demands on our healthcare system will increase. While we look for more long-lasting solutions to this workforce problem, health systems must look for immediate answers.

One way to bolster a healthcare workforce is with locum tenens or travel clinicians. It’s an essential method for filling healthcare supply and demand gaps. Locums grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be a popular option for clinicians due to the pay and flexibility these positions can offer. But, with growing workforce concerns, the process of placing locums must be expedited. Fortunately, this is achievable. 

Connected Networks And Automation Mean Faster Credentialing, Less Burden For Clinicians And Staff, And Improved Access To Care For Patients

Speed and efficiency are crucial in deploying locum tenens physicians. Each day a critical role or shift goes unfilled, existing staff must either stretch beyond capacity or, worse yet, be unable to treat a patient. 

Due to the complexity of locums’ backgrounds, their onboarding process can be cumbersome, repetitive, and arduous, mainly due to the credentialing and privileging requirements needed for each new position. Clinicians often have to repeatedly enter the same information into different forms, which is time-consuming for those with full-time positions.. Healthcare must advance to align with modern technological standards. It’s time for healthcare to catch up to modern technology. We don’t apply for car insurance and bank loans by entering everything about our past into forms; instead, those forms are auto-populated by existing information collected from online sources to ease the burden of a busy consumer and reduce errors and omissions. Our nation’s healthcare workers deserve the same convenience, and the credentialing staff that supports them need better data to do their jobs efficiently.  

While locums can be a more expensive option than a permanent hire,  in the long run, a clinician vacancy is far more costly for health systems compared to a temporary one. According to a Merritt Hawkins report, a physician generates over $9,000 in daily revenue for a healthcare system. With health systems facing closure and continuing to make difficult financial decisions every day, fast-tracking a locum to the bedside is financially advantageous for a healthy system in need.  

Technology exists to auto-populate a clinician’s information from thousands of data sources, slashing the paperwork and credentialing time in half. A speedier process that requires less paperwork reduces administrative burdens and leaves clinicians with more time to spend with patients. In order to truly impact this growing shortage, these age-old, manual processes need to be streamlined across the healthcare industry – from health systems to staffing agencies. The work done by and Axuall is one example of where technology and process re-engineering improved efficiency and clinician satisfaction by over 50%.

Clinician Phenotype

A phenotype is a medical term that defines a set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of it with the environment. Beyond adoption of solutions to increase onboarding speed, the aggregation of clinician data, and the development of clinician phenotypes can do more to empower and inform healthcare organizations. Clinician data allows for better matching. Insights into a clinician’s specialties, work history, and patient care patterns provide a more comprehensive view of a candidate for a role.. Health systems can use this data to deploy locum tenens clinicians based on their specific needs, and locum tenens agencies can, in turn, use this data to ensure a rich, relevant clinician candidate pool. 

Think of it in terms of any major league sport: when a team scouts and then drafts a new player. They are selected based on all available data regarding their skills, performance, and position. You don’t see baseball teams signing pitchers from one team to play first base on another. A clinician’s  phenotype provides information and insight for organizations to plan, recruit, and quickly deploy the best players for their care teams. 

When locum tenens placement agencies work closely with health systems, they can respond more quickly, accurately anticipate demand,  and ensure staffing solutions align with the health systems’ goals. In other words, every player gets placed in the best position. This collaborative approach is crucial for creating a more resilient healthcare workforce that can adapt to changing needs and challenges. Healthcare already uses patient big data to analyze and predict patterns; it’s time to do the same with clinician data. 


Looking ahead, the role of technology in healthcare staffing will continue to evolve. As healthcare facilities face increasing cost pressures, particularly around labor, there is a growing need for innovative solutions to maximize the efficiency of their workforce, both with employed staff and with locum tenens clinicians. Data is king. Any way data can create cost savings, fuel more informed decisions, and deliver a better working experience for clinicians and better patient care must be considered. Locum tenens may be a temporary solution for some health systems, but it’s a workforce solution that’s been around for decades. When coupled with the industry-wide adoption of innovative solutions, leveraging clinician big data the healthcare ecosystem can improve speed and effectiveness in clinician deployment and take the critical steps forward in proactively addressing clinician shortages. 

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