Coronavirus: Primary care physicians still feeling the stress of pandemic, survey finds

Both patients and physicians are still limiting chronic and well visits and struggles continue with virtual care.

While more practices are recommencing their in-office visits, physicians are still feeling the stress of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

The weekly survey, produced by The Larry A. Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative, found that when respondents were asked to identify the level of strain being put on their practice due to the pandemic on a scale of one to five, 69 percent reported their strain level at a four or higher.

A common reason for the stress is the lack of in-office patient visits and the income they provide. The survey found that 80 percent of patients are limiting their chronic and well visits, while 61 percent of practices have done the same. A further 52 percent of parents are delaying their children’s well visits.

But there is a bright spot, as it appears patient volumes are slowly increasing as 35 percent of respondents reported that the majority of their visits are taking place in person. Still, 30 percent reported that the majority of their visits are taking place over video or telephone. Telehealth is still a burden, though, as 80 percent of respondents say their patient have had trouble with it and 21 percent report they have had telehealth claims denied, according to the survey.

Beyond stay-at-home orders, COVID-19 is still an obstacle to physicians. Only 53 percent of practices reported some capacity to test patients for the disease. A further 25 percent report having no capacity to test patients for COVID-19. Another 52 percent reported that shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) has made testing and triaging COVID-19 patients difficult, the survey says.

“We’re interested in doing testing but we don’t have PPE,” one respondent from Nevada wrote.