CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, April 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Radiation oncologists have been experiencing some of the most severe burnout as well as poor work-life balance, relative to other physician specialties.  A recent Medscape oncology lifestyle report ranked oncologists 3rd in most severe burnout rates and 2nd with poorest work-life balance amongst all medical specialties.  Some of the causes include increasing administrative duties and EMR management, loss of autonomy in the workplace, and longer working hours.  Currently 46% of oncologists are reporting burnout, and up to 50% in the specialty of radiation oncology.

Disruption is seen within industries when a systemic failure or stagnation exists for a persistent amount of time.  As Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi industry, healthcare is now ripe for disruptive forces.  Hospital systems are being forced to shed bleeding programs, and significantly more medical services are trending to be offered outside of hospitals.  The tradition of a physician taking a clinic job in a small town and remaining in the same job for the next 30 years is extinct.  To push back against the rising administrative and EMR time requirements, more radiation oncologists are turning to locums work to allow for better flexibility and autonomy.

A workforce study conducted by ASCO projects that medical and radiation oncology services will significantly outpace the availability by 2020, resulting in a shortage of 2,550 to 4,080 oncologists.   This shortage will significantly increase the demand for locums services and permanent placement.  As physician practice styles continue to evolve along with changing demographics of the workforce, challenges in recruitment and staffing will remain significant over the coming years.  Hospital systems are expected to spend up to 4 billion dollars in annual recruitment costs by 2020.  Radiation oncology is a small specialty and comprises less then 1% of the overall healthcare workforce, yet up to 65% of all cancer patients need radiation therapy.  Thus, recruiting a radiation oncologist or finding locums help can be extremely challenging in certain geographic locations.

Currently, the 5 largest healthcare recruiting firms are as follows:

  • AMN Healthcare Services: $1.4 billion, 11% market share.
  • CHG Healthcare Services: $1.1 billion, 8% market share.
  • Cross Country Healthcare: $759 million, 6% market share.
  • Jackson Healthcare: $665 million, 5% market share.

For a clinic or hospital to get a locums radiation oncologist, the average cost quoted by these firms can range anywhere from $2000-$3000 daily.  In addition, physician airfare, hotel and meals are usually reimbursed and not included in the daily rate (so add an extra 200-300 dollars per day).  The cost appears to be high, but the clinic is generating revenue from the locums physician to offset those costs. Why are the fees so high?  The large healthcare firms have substantial overhead with administrative costs.  In order for them to remain profitable, a margin on top of the physician reimbursement must be added.  To justify the margin, most firms will state that malpractice is covered and credentialing is expedited.  However, this can be misleading as most physicians already have personal malpractice and most clinics have their own malpractice to cover a locums without any help needed from the firm.  Credentialing is usually no quicker with these firms, as the physician still needs to gather all appropriate paperwork. 

Small rural clinics often have a challenging time finding locums radiation oncologists.  In addition, locums fees from larger firms may be cost prohibitive.  Thus, many clinics and hospital systems are turning to boutique firms that specialize specifically in radiation oncology.  RadCoverage (www.radcoverage.com) is an example of a radiation oncology recruitment firm that has utilized creative methods to reduce costs for clinics and allow radiation oncologists to keep more of what they earn.  “We specialize only in the space of radiation oncology.  So we provide radiation oncologists, physicists, and dosimetrists.  We have much lower overhead costs then the larger firms like CompHealth, Weatherby, or LocumTenens.  This allows us to price more competitively as well as offer unique programs,” said Karolina Willis, VP of business development and recruitment for RadCoverage.  “We guarantee the lowest rates for clinics because we have the capability to adapt our pricing.  Also, because we know the specialty of radiation oncology much better then other firms, we can often find great candidates faster then the large general recruitment firms,” said Willis.  Whether clinics use larger firms with established history or boutique firms like RadCoverage, the reality is that locums needs will only continue to rise over the next decade for the specialty of Radiation Oncology.

 

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SOURCE Paramount Oncology Group