The physician practices in America are facing devastating financial losses following the COVID-19 outbreak. At this point, no one can actually predict what will happen tomorrow. According to many doctors and observers, the government has not taken adequate measures to combat this pandemic.
In the present time, physician practices across the U.S are experiencing a 30 to 75 percent decrease in patient volume. And talking about the business of primary care practices, it is down by 40 to 50 percent.
Now, physicians are even more worried as the whole situation can dire if telehealth and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) start covering virtual visits. While CMS has changed its regulation of reimbursement, telehealth has enthusiastically spread across the nation, to a point where it has turned to be a vital part of care delivery.
Nevertheless, a majority of small as well as independent practices are facing certain challenges ramping up telehealth systems & workflows. In case they are successful enough to master this technology soon, most small practices still have not more than 2 or 3 months of operating expenses in reserve. So, the only way independent practices can survive this crisis is by cutting down physician compensation and/or laying off staff.
Again, not all practices will be able to make it through this. Needless to note, a few practices may not even survive. Without appropriate and immediate governmental actions, the practices across the country will eventually fail. That time is not so far when the U.S. will face an unprecedented crisis of unemployed doctors when the COVID-19 pandemic will be at its peak.
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System-Owned Or Independent Practices?
At this time, physicians who are employed with a health care system are in better financial shape than an independent doctor.
For instance, internist Jeffrey Kagan, M.D., joined Hartford HealthCare recently, which is one of the largest systems in Hartford, Connecticut. He joined it after being an independent practitioner for several years. He became a part of Hartford in February first week, i.e. just weeks after the very first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the U.S
Today, Kagan is really happy that he took the right decision at the right time. People like him have to deal with a decreased volume of patients and still, they are getting full salary without any delay. This certainly means that system-owned is the clear winner here!!
Small Practices Face Threat
There are also a lot of physicians in the U.S who switched their practice completely to telehealth at the end of March. Plus, they even sent all of their staff homes. However, it is still unclear how long such types of practice will survive in their current form.
While many small practices are still unwilling to accept and consider telehealth, others are efficiently conducting virtual visits for many years now. There are people who considered virtual visits more, even before the pandemic.
Furthermore, the practice has also been disturbed in-office procedures including thyroid biopsies as well as thyroid ultrasounds. This is because Texas banned every procedure that came as another big financial hit for the practice.
Plus, in this present time, numerous patients with diabetes and various other metabolic disorders are also afraid to visit Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp for testing. This has also resulted in a drop in patient volume.
A rapid growth in the percentage of COVID-19 patients has threatened every hospital and intensive care unit across the US. With that being said, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just affecting the economy but also the healthcare system of the United States.
If the absence of robust as well as sustained governmental support still continues, then almost every hospital, be it small or large, will experience financial difficulties. But you know who is particularly at risk? Every small, independent, and rural, hospital out there.
This is the time when policymakers should come forward and provide dedicated support to all these hospitals. They should be allowed to access CARES Act funds as well as such hospitals must be allocated additional funding to them during this tough time. This will not only support them to survive but also help us as a nation to battle and win over this pandemic as soon as possible.