By 2034, the United States will have an estimated shortage of 124,000 physicians. Specifically, a shortage of 13,400 Cardiology, Oncology, Infectious Disease and Pulmonology physicians, as well as 35,600 Anesthesiology, Neurology, Emergency Medicine, and Addiction Medicine physicians. While the state-wide numbers are daunting, the rural United States is struggling the most. Of the 7,200 federally designated physician shortage areas, three out of five are in rural areas.

Combine this with the fact that 20% of the population resides in these rural communities and having only 11% of physicians practice in such regions creates a concerning picture. These shortages are deeply worrisome, especially for night shift workers. These front-line workers see the worst of the shortage as physicians and other practitioners travel home for the night. Relief for the overworked and understaffed front-line worker is desperately needed and the time is now for a sustainable, solution that elevates patient outcomes while reducing night shift physician burnout.

The Telemedicine Solution

One rising solution to physician staff shortages and limited resources is telemedicine. This can relieve physicians of burnout, free hospitals from costly travel clinicians, while maintaining a superior level of service at the hospital during the day and night.

Benefits of telemedicine also include patient retention, clinician recruiting and retention, and the ability to better the quality and reputation of the hospital at hand. Increasing access to physicians through telemedicine can also reduce patient referrals, increase patient satisfaction and improve the quality of care by improving access to specialist and niche practitioners. By using this rising telemedicine resource, hospitals will have access to 24/7 support and relieve local practitioners of burnout. Even more it can help retain on-staff talent by helping physicians benefit from an enhanced work-life balance. When hospitals add telemedicine to their tool belt, they are also expanding local access to care and specialists, bettering their reputation in the community.

Real World Challenges

As one could imagine, delivering adequate night shift coverage is rarely easy, particularly for smaller hospitals. This was the case for AnMed Cannon of South Carolina. The small hospital struggled to have the same level of care at night as they had during the day and many patients would need to be transferred to other facilities instead of being taken care of locally. The high levels of patient transfer impacted the AnMed Cannon’s ability to care for the community and was limiting hospital revenue. This pushed them to dive into more comprehensive telemedicine so they could reach other certified physicians outside of their community. “It wasn’t sustainable to continue denying admissions or transferring patients out,” said Brandon Clary, CFO, AnMed Cannon. “It is important to us that we continue to care for our community equally well at night as we do in the daytime. We needed a telemedicine provider that would support that goal.”

Notable Results

After AnMed Cannon began working with Eagle Telemedicine, they saw an almost immediate improvement. Using the Eagle team of on-call TeleNocturnists, AnMed Cannon dramatically enhanced night shift care and minimized patient transfers. But how?

  • Simplify and Integrate: Eagle aligns with the systems a hospital already has in place, integrating seamlessly into the established clinical workflows of each facility.
  • Accessibility: Eagle TeleNocturnists are available to care for patients within minutes and have full access to the hospital’s EMR. This allows them to view charts, provide documentation, and enter orders directly for smooth handoffs between the telemedicine provider and on-site staff.
  • Care Closer to Home: With the help of Eagle TeleNocturnists service, AnMed Cannon dramatically reduced patient transfer rates by 35% per month, allowing almost 60 additional patients per year to receive care closer to home.

Read more about how telemedicine benefitted AnMed Cannon in this case study. For many rural hospitals, telemedicine is filling the physician staff shortages gap, covering the night shift while relieving physicians of burnout and freeing hospitals from costly travel clinicians. The result is improving access to patient care both during the day and night.