Keep in mind that a couple of less financially tangible factors to consider in your locum tenens needs assessment: patient satisfaction and quality of care. As reform pushes everyone toward providing more for patients in both of these areas—and eventually reimbursing for them—you will need to create locum tenens contracts that allow you to quantify and calculate the value locum tenens provide in these areas as well.
For now, however, if you cannot adequately assess the financial contribution of areas to your hospital or health system, consider the strategic direction your hospital is headed and see if the locum tenens you are utilizing fit that direction. Moreover, if you haven’t done so already, you may also want to start creating locum tenens contracts that guide these physicians toward your strategic vision. Certainly locum tenens are a costly solution to staffing shortages, and as Kolff points out, should not be the long-term solution for this staffing problem.
Unfortunately, as hospitals nationwide find that there are fewer physicians candidate to actually recruit, locum tenens will remain a line item in the budget—how big a number you see in that row depends on how diligently you track the monetary (and non-monetary value) these physician bring to your hospital or health system.