Coronavirus: Patient volumes begin to bounce back

May 21, 2020

While patient volumes are up from early April, they are still about one-third of what they were before the pandemic.

Patient volumes have been down across the country due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but a new analysis says they may be bouncing back.

The analysis was performed by healthcare technology company Phreesia and researchers at Harvard University. They found that after a deep fall of about 60 percent in patient volume in early April, but those numbers are starting to rebound. The rebound, though, is only about 30 percent of what patient volumes were before the pandemic. The rebound is happening across the country but is most concentrated in the south central region.

The drop in patient volume mainly refers to in-person office visits which have been offset by an increase in telehealth visits. The number of telehealth visits rose rapidly in mid-April by 14 percent, but has since plateaued and recently begun to decline, according to the analysis.

Physicians across all specialties have felt the rebound in patient visits, but the dip is still largest among surgical and procedural specialties as well as pediatrics. Adult primary care and behavioral health have seen the smallest dip in patient visits, the analysis found.

Likewise, the modest rebound has been most pronounced among older adults, while the uptick was much smaller for younger children, the analysis found.

While the rebound is minor, it’s the first bright spot in a situation that has left many physicians grasping for straws just to keep their practices open. A previous survey from the Primary Care Collaborative found that 84 percent of respondents are experiencing severe or close to severe stress due to the pandemic.

That survey found that 19 percent of respondents have temporarily closed their practice while 18 percent were forced to close their practices permanently. An additional 42 percent of respondents say they have been forced to lay off staff or implement furloughs.