Why Hospitals Should Keep Moonlighters on Hand

By Suneel Dhand, MD
June 25, 2019

Leaders can keep finances and staffing in line in an era of shortages.

Hospitals and clinics everywhere are struggling to staff adequately at a time of escalating demand. An aging population rise in chronic comorbidities, and huge physician shortage collectively are exerting a toll at the medical front lines.

emergency roomThis doctor shortage is projected to exceed 100,000 by the end of the next decade, and there are many authorities who say this staggering number is an underestimate. Certain specialties are affected more than others, including primary care, hospital medicine, emergency medicine and intensive care. But, in reality, almost all specialties are affected to some degree.

Traditionally, the only way for institutions to staff for short-term needs was to go through expensive locum agencies and third-party recruiters. It could be a surge in demand during the winter, a sudden resignation or a physician going on unexpected leave.

The placement companies that come to the rescue often charge hefty fees, take a large cut of the physician’s salary (often an ongoing hourly rate) and have clauses if the physician signs on full time. Considering the expense, it’s no wonder the industry is worth over $3 billion.

The goal for any organization is to make sure patients are taken care of, and to plan for unexpected circumstances. And at a time when the squeeze is on in health care, financial responsibility also is a must. Having several physicians credentialed and easy to be called upon if need be, is hugely advantageous. This avoids any last-minute coverage gap panic and opens new possibilities for staffing that wouldn’t have previously existed.

Having a “team” of moonlighters on your staff is the way of the future — and what every hospital and clinic should strive for.

Suneel Dhand, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine and is based in Massachusetts. He is co-founder of DocsDox, an online service that connects physicians with moonlighting and per diem opportunities

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