By Chris Franklin, president, LocumTenens.com.
LocumTenens.com asked physicians and advanced practitioners about their experiences with healthcare consolidation as part of its 2019 Compensation and Employment Survey. It can take years to determine success or failure, but one thing is certain: consolidation impacts an organization’s staff and patients.
The results of the survey are insightful. First, 41% of respondents had been employed at an organization where there was a merger or acquisition, and 16% of those respondents were laid off as a result.
Although 42 percent of respondents believe their organization gained access to additional resources, technology or expertise because of consolidation, only 23% reported quality of care has increased, which can be tied back to reduction in staff.
Layoffs often mean remaining providers are seeing more patients than ever. As one internal medicine physician from the northeast wrote, there’s “pressure on doctors to see more patients, [which means] less time for office visits.” This physician, who has been practicing for almost 30 years, was part of an organization that experienced layoffs. Although she was able to keep her position, she plans on making a job change within the next six months.
Unfortunately, the pressure to see more patients can lead to provider burnout and decreased quality of patient care. This is especially true if providers have less face-to-face time with their patients.
One of the motivating factors for consolidation is the desire to launch new or enhance existing service lines. Utilizing locum tenens clinicians in these situations means patients are being seen much sooner than they would if an organization hired new permanent staff members, which can take months or years. Locum tenens providers have worked in a variety of settings, where they’ve picked up best practices that can more readily be incorporated into a newly consolidated organization with a malleable culture. They’re available and ready to work in a pinch, allowing organizations to profit faster.
One troubling statistic that came out of the survey is only 14% of respondents felt valued by the larger organization post consolidation. Lack of feeling valued can also lead to a higher incidence of clinician burnout and hinder the success of the consolidated organization. We explore ways hospital and practice administrators can ensure their healthcare providers continue to feel valued after a merger or acquisition, and ways administrators can demonstrate they place value on the shared culture of the consolidating facilities, on our website.
Some clinicians reported the advantages of working for a larger organization outweigh the stress that comes with an increased workload. Some of these advantages include better benefits, systems and options for referrals for their patients. One aspect that seems to be positively impacted is the continuity of care. In the view of respondents, care patients receive tends to be more coherent and is better facilitated by enhanced communication and coordination among clinicians who have undergone consolidation within organizations.
The importance of working to ensure healthcare consolidations are as smooth and successful as possible shouldn’t minimized. What is the best way to ensure the success of a merger or acquisition? Every healthcare organization is different, which means the answer is not simple. But one thing is for sure: Organizational leadership must make sure they’re taking the best care of their medical staff so they can continue to take the best care of their patients.
You can view the full results of LocumTenens.com’s 2019 Compensation and Employment Survey here.