As telehealth use grows, so does interest in locum tenens opportunities
| August 06, 2019
In 2018, the global telemedicine market was valued at more than $38 billion, and by 2025, that number is projected to skyrocket, possibly exceeding $130.5 billion.
According to a new report, this growth is powered by a few factors, most notably the growing need to access medical care matched with the introduction of technologies that make it possible for physicians to conduct clinical work remotely.
This comes as no surprise to those watching the space. Telemedicine helps to remove geographic boundaries while offering a convenient way for patients and physicians to connect virtually and in real time. Patients are adopting the technology. This is leading to a boom.
According to Doximity’s July 2019 report, "2019 Telemedicine and Locum Tenens Opportunities Study," the American Medical Association’s most recent national physician survey found that 15% of physicians have used telemedicine in clinical settings, such as diagnosing or treating patients.
This means health systems must now begin preparing for the coming tide of business that must be staffed and resourced to properly manage the telehealth channels. However, without support from policymakers, physicians are not making the move to telemedicine.
From 2015 through 2018, Doximity found that the number of physicians who self-reported telemedicine as a skill doubled and continues to increase by about 20% per year. "This correlates with significant growth in telemedicine patient visits, which increased annually by 261 percent between 2015 and 2017," according to a study published in JAMA.
Regarding employment opportunities, female physicians were 10% more interested in telemedicine job opportunities, relative to their male counterparts.
When looking at age, physicians across all age groups shared nearly equal interest in telemedicine.
While telehealth has risen in popularity, the Doximity report pointed to a rise in interest in locum tenens work, which is a temporary physician employment opportunity that is considered part-time. Both locum tenens work and telemedicine provide patients with increased access to care across the country.
"Despite a recent American Well survey that found younger physicians were more willing to use telemedicine, Doximity’s study showed that actual engagement with job postings remained consistent across all age groups. Older physicians seeking jobs were just as interested, with 23.5 percent of physicians between the ages of 50 and 60 years old engaging with telemedicine opportunities," the study’s authors noted.
Additionally, nearly three-quarters of the physicians engaging with telemedicine positions are full-time in private practice or provider organizations.
Doximity ranked the top U.S. metros that had the highest number of physicians expressing interest in telemedicine with the findings demonstrating that physicians who currently reside in highly populated metro areas are engaging the most with telemedicine job opportunities.
Like telemedicine, the study observed little variation in engagement with temporary positions among the different age groups. However, men are more likely to pursue opportunities in locum tenens opportunities.
The study found that a significantly smaller percentage of women were interested in engaging with temporary positions. Men made up 73.6% of candidates, while only 26.4% were female candidates. 64% of all U.S. physicians are male, while 36% are female.
When examining the current residence of physicians interested in temporary positions, the findings echoed the telemedicine rankings, where major metro areas with a high cost of living and highly centralized medical hubs topped the list.
"In rural areas, where doctor shortages are an increasing issue, or access to certain specialists may be extremely challenging, telemedicine can help patients connect with providers that were previously much more difficult to access," the study’s authors noted.
"It’s encouraging to note that physicians across specialties, age groups and geographic regions are drawn to telemedicine. Physicians’ increasing interest in telemedicine, and temporary positions, will help more patients get access to care."
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