As many organizations within the healthcare industry shift from fee-for-service toward value-based care, health leaders can improve outcomes and reduce costs using locums.
Healthcare Value Defined
Stakeholders have been striving to define and measure “value” in healthcare for decades. With varying strategies, interests, and perspectives, the debate over the most effective means for quantifying healthcare value may continue indefinitely. However, current trends lean toward the value-based model above traditional fee-for-service models. It seems that many healthcare leaders, politicians, insurers, providers, and patients have come to agree that value overshadows volume when sizing up medical care.
With that in mind, generally, value can be quantified as output divided by input; specifically, healthcare value can be defined as quality of care divided by cost. While this is a distillation of the complexities that go into measuring healthcare value, it is useful as a general formula for how the healthcare industry can begin to approach assessing value.
To increase healthcare value: improve quality and reduce cost.
Improving Quality of Care
Quality of care can be measured in many ways, although just as “valuating” value can prove challenging, “quantifying” quality is also an imperfect science (even the use of the term “quality” has proven confusing within the field). That said, healthcare organizations utilize various means to improve healthcare outcomes such as hiring highly qualified clinicians and support staff, increasing access to healthcare for underserved patient populations, ensuring adequate coverage, and reducing patient wait times. Facilities also strive to increase quality by improving patient safety, focusing on patient satisfaction, enhancing communication, encouraging patient compliance, improving health outcomes…the list goes on.
Again, defining and measuring costs is a challenge. Porter notes that “it is the total costs of providing care for the patient’s medical condition (or bundle of primary and preventive care services), not the cost of any individual service or intervention, that matters for value.” Facilities have worked for decades to reduce costs through an array of methods such as streamlining services, optimizing resources, implementing technology, reducing administrative burdens, eliminating unnecessary testing, and improving staffing and scheduling.
How Locums Can Help Improve Quality and Reduce Costs
Using locums can be a surprisingly effective means for increasing the value of healthcare that facilities deliver. Here, we share how locums can help, as we revisit some of the ways leaders commonly aim to improve quality and reduce costs.
Improving Quality With Locums
1. Hiring highly qualified clinicians and staff – Health leaders can round out their staff with all manner of locums physicians and APPs, from generalists to specialists to subspecialists.
2. Increasing access to healthcare for underserved patient populations – There are locums providers across the nation who are eager to care for underserved patients, especially veterans, patients who live in rural towns, urban areas, and reservations.
3. Ensuring adequate coverage – Locums are standing by to jump in and help when needed for seasonal shortages or even to work on the frontlines during an outbreak.
4. Reducing patient wait times – Locums can help streamline care and reduce patient wait times. It’s much easier to utilize locums, especially for vacillating demand, than to hire and fire permanent providers.
5. Improving patient safety – When staff members are overworked, stressed, and burned out, patient safety is on the line. Locums can be used to avoid overtime, relieve staff, and provide a much-needed respite for overworked providers.
6. Enhancing communication – Locums clinicians are prepped in advance to be effective communicators. They are ready to jump in and seamlessly integrate with the care team.
7. Encouraging patient compliance – Adding locum support can alleviate stress for rushed providers. That way, patients who see both permanent and locums providers can enjoy undivided attention during appointments, improving the chances they’ll be satisfied and more likely to comply with treatments.
8. Improving health outcomes – When skilled, qualified, effective locums providers come on board, the ship can run more smoothly, improving overall health outcomes, increasing staff morale, and leading to happier healthier patients.
Reducing Costs With Locums
1. Streamline services – Having adequate locums support can help facilities optimize visit lengths, allowing providers to see more patients.
2. Implementing technology and reducing administrative burdens – Locums are accustomed to quickly adapting to new EHS/EMS technology, and they can help reduce the time permanent providers spend on administrative duties.
3. Optimizing staffing and scheduling – Locums can be hired much more quickly than permanent providers. They are flexible as far as scheduling goes and can be used to fill in hours around permanent staff. Using locums can help reduce overtime and can prove to be a more cost-effective solution, especially since vacancies lead to lost revenue.