Coronavirus: Physician practices in financial trouble

Reduced volume, decreased revenue, and increased expenses due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic are to blame.

Physician practices are still in financial trouble due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as the public health emergency enters a new phase.

According to a nationwide physician survey with 3,500 respondents produced by the American Medical Association (AMA) practices have been hurt by an average 31 percent drop in revenue.

“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” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, says in a news release accompanying the results. “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.”

The survey was administered from mid-July through August this year and found that 81 percent of respondents said their revenue was lower than it had been in February. The loss in revenue was at or greater than 50 percent for one in five physicians, the release says.

When it comes to patient volumes, another 81 percent of respondents reported they were providing fewer in-person patient visits than in February, with one-third of respondents saying the drop was 50 percent or greater. A further seven out of 10 respondents reported performing fewer total visits, including telehealth, despite the increased use of telehealth. Total patient volumes for one out of five respondents decreased by 50 percent or more, the release says.

Meanwhile, two out of five respondents say their spending on personal protective equipment rose by 50 percent or more since February while 36 percent of respondents say that acquiring personal protective equipment was very or extremely difficult. That difficulty increases for smaller practices that lack the purchasing power to compete with large health systems.