The U.S. healthcare system is changing fast as institutions and providers scramble to keep up with evolving circumstances. One of the biggest challenges has been the impact of COVID-19 on primary care practices.
Here are 10 facts that help explain the impact of COVID-19 on primary care practices and physicians.
COVID-19 & physician office visits by the numbers
These facts represent the latest available information as of April 20, 2020.
1. Office visits cut in half
Physicians across specialties are seeing declines in patient volume of 30-75%. Many practices are limiting well visits and chronic care visits, with implications for patients and practice revenue.
Business for primary care practices is down 40-50%. The number of in-person doctors visits continues to decline.
2. Impact is “severe” for 49% of practices
3. Telehealth visits up 1388%
This week will see 14 times more telehealth visits compared to a Jan-Feb baseline. Many physicians are turning to telehealth to keep treating patients while reducing the spread of disease.
4. Most PCPs conducting telehealth
According to one survey, 83% of primary care physicians are using telehealth. While the survey isn’t nationally representative, it gives a sense for the huge uptick in virtual visits. Other sources report that over 50% of clinicians are using telehealth.
This is a whole new world for most physicians. In 2015, just 5% of doctors reported having ever used telemedicine.
5. Over 20% using video
6. 33% unsure about telehealth reimbursement
While most doctors are using telehealth, a third of PCPs report being unsure of how their telehealth services will be reimbursed.
7. Patients’ inability to use telehealth is a stress
Although CMS has relaxed rules to expand telehealth, there are still barriers to access. Most physicians report having patients who can’t access telehealth due to no computer or internet. Roughly 75% of physicians report that patients’ inability to use telehealth is a stress on their practice.
8. 42% laying off staff
Almost half of PCPs say they have already had to lay off or furlough staff. There are a few factors making it hard for offices to stay open. Most clinicians report limited or no capacity for COVID-19 testing, staff are out sick or quarantined, and over half of practices lack PPE.
9. 5% temporarily closed
We’re seeing a lot of economic pain among patients and physicians. As of April 17, 5% of practices have temporarily closed.
10. Financial vulnerabilities are high
The financial impact of COVID-19 is very real for patients and providers. According to a survey from last week, 20% of primary care practices predict they will close within four week.
Things will get worse before they get better
About half of PCPs say they are unsure if they have enough cash to keep their practices open. Among those predicting closure, 3% say it would be due to low staffing, 12% due to low patient volume, and 6% due to lack of cash on hand.
If your primary care practice is struggling to respond to COVID-19, please see the following resources.