Coronavirus: Survey shows primary care physicians’ situations getting worse

Practice stress due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is getting to patients.

Primary care physicians are seeing their situations deteriorate as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wears on and that is starting to stress out patients, according to a new survey.

The survey, the 10th in a weekly series performed by the Primary Care Collaborative and The Larry A. Green Center, found that patients are feeling “panicked, upset, or heartbroken” at the prospect of losing their primary care physician.

Meanwhile, demand for care has increased, with more than half of patients reporting having been in contact with their primary care practice. But, physicians are still feeling the financial squeeze of the pandemic. More than 40 percent of primary care practices have been forced to lay off staff over the past eight weeks and more than half are uncertain of their financial future one month from now, the survey says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put our chronic underinvestment in primary care on full display,” Dr. Rebecca Etz, PhD, co-director of The Larry A. Green Center and associate professor of Family Medicine and Population Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, says in a news release accompanying the survey results. “Without immediate financial support, we are looking at a matter of weeks - not months - that patients’ fears about primary care will turn into reality.”

Despite the financial impact on their practices, both primary care physicians and their patients fear a rushed reopening of the country. Nearly 80 percent of patients and 90 percent of physicians report that they feel the states currently reopening too soon, opening the door for a second wave of COVID-19, the survey says.

“At a time when mistrust of institutions is at an all-time high, 70% of patients report feeling secure in their trust of primary care,” Ann Greiner, president and CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative, says in the release. “Primary care is central to helping patients navigate this crisis right now. It will be essential in the months ahead as states begin to re-open and Americans turn to trusted sources to help them transition back to work and school.”