80% to 85% of U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 are in people aged 60 and older.
Approximately one-third of our nation’s doctors are 60 and older.
These sobering statistics underscore our need to strategically safeguard our seasoned physicians.
COVID-19 Risk in Relation to Age
In Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC reports “The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age…31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions, and 80% of deaths occurred among adults aged ≥65 years with the highest percentage of severe outcomes among persons aged ≥85 years”
Age Distribution Among the Physician Workforce
Khera, Dhingra, Jain, and Krumholz recently published An Evaluation of the Vulnerable Physician Workforce in the United States During the Coronavirus Disease-19 Pandemic, in which they grouped publically available physician data from the Federation of State Medical Boards into 5-year age bins nationally and across each state. The researchers found “of the 985,026 licensed physicians in the US, 235,857 or 23.9% were aged 25-40 years, 447,052 or 45.4% are 40-60 years, 191,794 or 19.5% were 60-70 years, and 106,121 or 10.8% were 70 years or older. Age was not reported in 4202 or 0.4% of physicians. Overall, 297,915 or 30.2% of physicians were 60 years of age or older, 246,167 (25.0%) 65 years and older, and 106,121 (10.8%) 70 years or older."
Compounded Risk for Physicians Over 60
Doctors, especially those on the frontlines, are already at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 since they may be exposed to patients who are ill with the disease. And nearly 300,000 of these U.S. physicians have a compounded vulnerability due to their age. This presents a significant challenge within the physician workforce. Fortunately, hardship often engenders creative solutions, and health leaders love a good challenge.
Safeguarding Seasoned Physicians
Personal ideologies regarding how to deal with exposure to the disease run the gamut; the individual physician and facility should confer to determine the appropriate course of action. Here are some measures healthcare leaders and doctors can consider taking to reduce exposure for providers over 60.
- Telemedicine. Allow physicians over 60 to conduct telehealth appointments, and use doctors who are at lower risk to treat patients in person.
- Training. Let older physicians focus on training new physicians, advanced practice professionals, and other medical staff, reducing exposure to patients.
- Research. Augment your organization’s research output using higher risk physicians to expand the medical knowledge base.
- Administration. Consider whether any of your veteran physicians is qualified to transition into a leadership role. Is it time to fill a position, and if so, can you hire within?
- Marketing. Could your organization use one of your higher-risk physicians with strong writing skills to focus on white papers, case studies, interviews, videos, or other communications which could expand the business?
- Locum tenens. Supplement your staff with locum tenens doctors and APPs as you let your physicians over 60 shift into roles with reduced exposure. The locums arrangement is an affordable, flexible, temporary solution. You’ll be protecting the health of your veteran physicians. You won’t be making a time-consuming, long-term, permanent commitment, and once the risks subside, you can resume normal operations.
Locum Tenens Solutions with Cross Country Locums
We’d love to hear what creative solutions you’ve implemented during the coronavirus pandemic to protect your team. Our skilled staffing professionals are ready to discuss how we can help you bolster your workforce. Connect with us to see how locums tenens professionals fit into that evolving picture.
Total Talent Management with Cross Country Healthcare
As the COVID-19 crisis exacerbates the existing physician shortage, long-term challenges may prove even more difficult than any of us can fathom. We believe locums providers will play a critical support role for providing transitional coverage during this period of uncertainty.
At Cross Country Healthcare, we not only provide locums physician and APP support through Cross Country Locums; we also offer total talent management and expansive offerings including perm hire solutions for physicians. From travel and local nurse and allied professional staffing to direct hire support of physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, clinical and non-clinical support, we’ve got you covered.