Locum Tenens and the Rise of Telemedicine: What You Should Know
Most of us have heard of telemedicine even if we have never personally participated in it, whether as doctor or patient. Telemedicine is exactly what it sounds like: providing treatment to patients remotely. This is done by secure broadband and other telecommunications technologies, including by ordinary telephone. It’s been around longer than you may think, having started in the middle of the 20th century, primarily in remote areas of Australia and the American West.
Telemedicine has actually been around in remote areas for decades.
In more recent years the logic has gone, “We can Skype our loved ones easily, so why not see our physicians in a similar manner for routine illnesses?” Once the necessary security features were married to broadband technology, telemedicine started gaining traction. And in general, patients love it. The mother of young children can avoid packing everyone into the car, driving to the pediatrician’s office, and waiting in a roomful of sick kids simply to get the youngest’s ear infection treated.
By the year 2021, telemedicine in the United States alone is expected to be a $13 billion-plus market. Can locum tenens physicians be used to deliver telemedicine? Absolutely. Here’s what clinics and hospitals should know about this exciting new option.
Telemedicine, Specialties, and Rural Staffing Shortages
The physician shortage affects the entire nation, but remote and rural areas are hardest hit, particularly when it comes to specialists. Suppose a rural critical access hospital is trying to hire a full-time, permanent psychiatrist, but is having difficulty doing so. Many will turn to locum tenens physicians to fill the gaps, which can be an excellent solution. When locum tenens work is combined with telemedicine, however, the possibilities open up even more. The locum tenens psychiatrist who understands telemedicine delivery can start as soon as the technology is in place, and doesn’t necessarily have to uproot and move to the remote location to provide services to patients.
Locum tenens combined with telemedicine can offer rural facilities with more options for coping with staffing shortages, so patients can get the care they need more quickly, and with less hassle. These locum tenens physicians may work short-term (say while another physician is on maternity leave), or long term while the facility goes through the often-lengthy process of making a permanent hire.
Benefits of Combining Locum Tenens with Telemedicine
Locum tenens physicians offer hospitals and clinics many benefits. So does telemedicine. Combined, locum tenens physicians and telemedicine can address staffing needs more quickly, delivering care that patients generally like, all without compromising quality of care. One of the best advantages of telemedicine is that it can be terrific for serving older patients, and patients with mobility or transportation problems. Moreover, it allows physicians to see more patients in a shorter amount of time, and in many cases allows easier remote monitoring of patients with chronic conditions like heart failure or diabetes.
Patients generally find telemedicine services convenient and satisfying for routine health matters.
Licensing and Telemedicine
The concerns associated with licensing of locum tenens physicians and licensing concerns with telemedicine are similar. A locum tenens doctor, of course, must be licensed in the state in which he or she takes a locum tenens assignment. Telemedicine physicians, likewise, must in most cases be licensed to treat patients in the patient’s state.
Efforts are underway to develop an Interstate Medical Licensure Compact to help streamline licensing for physicians who want to practice in multiple states. While this can be of tremendous help in obtaining licensure in multiple states, remaining compliant with medical practice acts and practice standards in each state is another challenge that must be met. There’s no substitute for an experienced locum tenens agency when it comes to meeting the many challenges of hiring locum tenens physicians for telemedicine or otherwise.
Does Your Locum Tenens Agency Work Regularly with Specialists?
Likewise, there is no substitute for working with a locum tenens agency with experience placing specialists, because it can take longer to find and hire a specialist and you don’t want to restrict services to your patients while you’re without a permanent specialist. Locum tenens offers healthcare facilities peace of mind and confidence that there will be no interruption in patient services, and in some cases, combining locum tenens assignments with telemedicine technology is an excellent way to ensure you never go without the physician specialists you need.
All Medical Locum Tenens is experienced in placing locum tenens physicians in over 50 specialties, and we invite you to contact us to get locums coverage. We can help ensure your facility consistently offers the highest quality medical services to your patients.