Locum tenens is a medieval Latin term which means “one holding a place.” It became the moniker of an industry which helped lay the foundation for a modern America and is steadily becoming the next wave in healthcare provision.
In the early days of the United States as settlers did their best to create a New World dream, it was the traveling doctors who went from town to town that kept the waves of determined pioneers alive long enough to build a country.
We now know these traveling doctors as locum tenens physicians and today, there are approximately 40,000 of them operating in the U.S. alone, temporarily taking the place of physicians who are sick or on vacation. They work in the big cities, the farming communities, and the suburbs. In fact, nine out of ten healthcare facilities in the U.S. use locums to supplement their staff.
You see, according to a 2014 National Physician Survey, the average hours worked per week by Canadian physicians was 48.2 hours. This does not include on-call hours or time spent outside work finishing up documentation and checking correspondence. This puts the average somewhere closer to 56 hours per week.
As such, many doctors end up working almost 1.5 times more hours than the 9-5 set for a full 36-year career. They are compensated for their troubles but the stress of long hours and no personal life drives many from the profession before retirement. This situation doesn’t bode well when you consider there will be an estimated shortage of 90,000 doctors in the U.S. by 2025.
Locums are a necessary adjunct to medicine and will help drive the sector into a healthier 21st century, but the agency-based method of hiring locums is antiquated, leaving institutions wanting and locums unfulfilled.
Temporary healthcare staffing is big business. According to a 2015 Staffing Industry Analysts report, there was an estimated 34 healthcare staffing firms in the U.S. which generated US$6.5 billion in 2014. This is a rich sector ripe for disruption.
Some healthcare staffing firms have seen a sliver of the light and made their on-line offerings more interactive and intuitive, but the middle-man framework their services were built on, still exists. The only way to cover this overhead is to charge expensive fees.
Now that we live in the cloud and the age of SaaS, much of what these staffing agencies do, is automatable. It was only a matter of time before tech entrepreneurs turned their focus on the locum market to provide the disruption the space so desperately needs.
A little over a year ago, London-based healthcare startup, Lantum for Locums (“LFL”), nabbed $7.0 million in a Series B funding round led by British fund, BGF Ventures. LFL is revolutionizing U.K.’s National Health Service (“NHS”) with the introduction of platform that provides workplace management, a locum marketplace and payment services.
Currently, 8,000 locums actively use LFL for free while 1,200 healthcare clients, such as the North Middlesex University Hospital, subscribe to the service.
Surprisingly, the market is still relatively untapped. There was an Australian startup called Doctors for Australia, that dealt solely with hospitals, but it seems to be defunct now. And there is a company called Nomad Health operating in California which provides a marketplace for short-term clinical jobs.
So, when I heard about BC-based startup, Locumunity, establishing a footprint in the Canadian market, I wanted to find out more.
Locumunity is headed by CEO, Dr. Haneen Abu-Remaileh, a family physician/maternity care locum based out of the Lower Mainland. Her personal experience with being a locum gave her the incentive to create something better – a centralized tool for both locums and employers to connect.
The company is Canada-wide but is presently focused on BC, Alberta and Ontario.
Since Locumunity launched in April this year, it onboarded 250 registered locums and 111 healthcare providers.
Right now, the company is working with doctors to ensure Locumunity is providing the best experience possible for locums and fully expects to exponentially ramp up its user base in the next six months.
Locumunity Head of Product Training and Development, Omar Abdolall, commented, “We’ve been getting some phenomenal feedback from both locums and healthcare providers which fuels the fire and gives us confidence that our milestones will be met in a timely manner.”
Speaking of which, the company intends to lock down the aforementioned provinces as soon as possible and then move on to become THE centralized search tool for locums across Canada.
Of course, the U.S. also provides a lucrative market for Locumunity, hence the company is exploring the option of applying to Silicon Valley accelerators like Y Combinator and AngelPad.
If the now privately-held Locumunity can continue its trajectory and snap up a spot with say, 500 Startups, it just might propel itself onto the public markets and up the boards like a rocket. The next six months will be crucial for the company.
Do your homework, you may want to keep your eye on this one.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Companies mentioned in this article are NOT clients of EQUITY.GURU.