Concurrent Call Coverage: Key Considerations for a Compliant Structure  

May 28, 2024

Written by Holden Godat, CVA; Taylor Harville; and Trent Fritzsche

In the traditional sense, call coverage was a mutual obligation for physicians in addition to their clinical duties. Many physicians would provide uncompensated call coverage to a hospital to secure hospital privileges, build their own practices, and ensure proper patient care with specialized services when needed. Due to the passage of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA), which requires Medicare-participating hospitals to provide sufficient levels of physician coverage to their emergency departments, hospitals are facing difficult task of determining the appropriate level of physician coverage. Several factors—including physician work-life balance, growing uninsured patient populations, increasing professional liability insurance costs, and a declining supply of physicians—have contributed to a decline in uncompensated call coverage and a significant increase in compensated call coverage stipends. 

The healthcare sector has seen an increasingly high demand for physicians over the past decade, and projections show that there is a shortfall in supply that does not appear to be going away any time soon. According to The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034, a report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “the U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years.” Such a significant shortage of physicians has left health systems and hospitals with few options to remedy the potential lapse in patient care. To combat this problem, many care organizations have turned to concurrent call coverage arrangements as a potential, efficient solution. As these arrangements become more common, it is important to ensure organizations are compliant from a fair market value perspective.  

Defining Concurrent Call Coverage 

Concurrent call coverage is an arrangement whereby a physician may provide on-call coverage services to multiple locations and/or to multiple specialty panels simultaneously. These arrangements seek to provide an even distribution of work and ensure patients receive a sufficient level of care. Although concurrent call arrangements help to provide an efficient continuum of care, there are a few important considerations to weigh with each arrangement. Setting fair market value physician compensation for any concurrent call coverage arrangement brings forth a new set of difficulties and regulatory scrutiny that must be properly addressed.  

Key Considerations

Burden of Call

In determining appropriate compensation for a call coverage shift, it is important to establish the actual burden of being on call. Factors impacting call burden include: 

  • Collections Responsibility: A physician’s compensation structure, ability to collect, and exposure to emergency department payor mix are primary drivers in a call burden. 
  • Volume: The number of times a physician is required to respond in person and over the phone to provide coverage are key drivers to establishing a call burden. 
  • Acuity: Understanding that certain panels and trauma designations will lead to different types of procedures, resulting in different levels of acuity, can have meaningful impacts on a call burden. 
  • Physician Supply and Demand: Lastly, the availability of additional physicians qualified to provide the expected coverage services has a direct impact on the call burden. If a physician is the only qualified individual who can provide the required coverage, that provider must constantly be available. Therefore, the burden is inherently greater for an individual physician when compared to a physician in a multi-provider group that has other providers available for back-up or substitute call coverage. 

When determining appropriate compensation in a concurrent call coverage arrangement, it is important to consider the combined burden of call. 

Required Specialty  

An important value driver for any call coverage arrangement is understanding the required specialty needed to perform the coverage. Typically, concurrent call arrangements are required due to the need for one group of specialized physicians to provide coverage for two or more unique, call coverage panels. Due to the nature of these arrangements, the physicians providing the concurrent services must be able to effectively provide both panels of coverage. Select the appropriate specialty for the subject services to ensure the physician can adequately cover multiple panels and to ensure the physician is appropriately compensated for the services being provided.

Physician Availability 

In a typical call coverage arrangement, the ultimate compensation rate contemplates the unrestricted availability of a physician for a given amount of time. When stacking panels or facilities to be covered in a concurrent setting, be aware of this availability and ensure the overall compensation does not account for the same time twice. Since physician availability is already being covered by an initial panel, stacking compensation related to additional panels could create overpayment concerns. Furthermore, concurrent arrangements often create additional efficiencies for an emergency department that should be reflected in the ultimate compensation. To ensure providers are appropriately compensated for the time they are providing coverage, it is common to use a discounted coverage rate on top of the existing stipend to account for the incremental coverage of additional panels or facilities.  

To illustrate this point, consider a hypothetical Panel A and Panel B. Independently, Panel A and Panel B may be worth $500 per 24-hour shift and $600 per 24-hour shift, respectively. That does not necessarily mean that the concurrent coverage of Panel A and Panel B equals $1,100 per 24-hour shift. Each panel independently contemplates 24 hours of availability. When combined, there must be assurances that the availability of the physician is not compensated twice.  

Sources of Compensation 

One of the last and most critical pieces of setting up any concurrent call coverage arrangement is to fully understand the compensation terms for the services. While these do not drive value for the services in the way other factors might, the specific terms relating to the compensation are critical to understand in providing an appropriate valuation. Factors like whether the physician is employed or an independent contractor, understanding who retains the rights for billing and collection under each individual arrangement, and a thorough review of whether providers receive production credit toward outside employment agreements are all vital pieces of structure to consider when evaluating a concurrent call coverage arrangement.  


The many unique considerations of concurrent call arrangements, such as establishing the appropriate burden of call, determining the correct specialty for services being provided, contemplating physician availability in a shift, and sources of compensation, often make these arrangements tricky to structure in a compliant manner. Although it may seem as simple as adding two shifts together, this is a major misconception. Increased scrutiny from regulators and the tricky healthcare landscape has made it more important than ever to obtain third-party fair market value guidance to ensure you meet a compliant call compensation system. 


Association of American Medical Colleges. (2021). The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2019 to 2034. Retrieved from ssociation of American Medical Colleges. (2021). The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2019 to 2034. Retrieved from 

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