If your practice is still facing the impact of COVID-19 then you are not alone. According to the American Medical Association, loss of in-person visits of physicians is coupled with higher than usual expenses for physician practice capability. Your practice capability is under the COVID-19 pandemic threat as physicians continue to see low patient visits in their office, according to a new survey report from the American Medical Association.
The AMA conducted a survey in July and August, 3,500 physicians participated in this survey. Almost 81 percent of physician’s responses were, revenue is still lower than pre-pandemic levels by August 2020. One out of every five physicians reported that their revenue declined by 50+ percent, although the average revenue drop was 32 percent.
Physicians are still seeing less patients. 70 percent of physicians mentioned that they were still providing fewer total patient visits (in-person + telehealth) in July and August at the time of the survey compared to pre-pandemic. Physicians reported that average total visits decreased from 101 to 72 per week even though Telehealth use tremendously increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
81 percent of physicians said that they were still providing their services to fewer actual patient visits compared to the pre-pandemic time, with the average total of patient’s in-person visits to practices falling from 95 to 57 percent per week.
The revenue of lost in-person visits of patients in care coupled with increased expenses, particularly for personal protective equipment (PPE), threatens physician practice viability, according to the AMA survey.
According to Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the AMA, “Physician practices continue to be under significant financial stress due to reductions in patient volume and revenue, in addition to higher expenses for supplies that are scarce for some physicians. More economic relief is needed now from Congress as some medical practices contemplate the brink of viability, particularly smaller practices that are facing a difficult road to recovery.”
Federal financial relief early in the pandemic
The U.S. government has provided financial help to physician practices, most especially through the CARES Act’s $175 billion Provider Relief Fund.
SBA Paycheck Protection Program
The report showed that about 88 percent of physicians expressed federal aid from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program as very or extremely helpful.
Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program
About 71 percent of physicians said that a program that Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program to providers at the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency was equally as helpful. However, physicians were more interested to give their opinion the program was just “somewhat” helpful compared to the other federal assistance efforts (24 percent versus 18 percent for CARES Act funding and 12 percent for Paycheck Protection Program).
According to the AMA report, “It is clear the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a negative impact on physician practices, both in terms of decreased revenue and increased costs. While initial federal financial relief programs were helpful to practices that applied, it appears the road to recovery, particularly for smaller physician-owned practices, remains difficult, and more economic relief is needed.”
The recent election results yet to be declared but this could give a new direction to Congress’ efforts to pass another stimulus package or more healthcare-related relief.
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