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Todd Shryock, contributing author
Volume is still well below pre-COVID levels
In practices with more than one physician, more than half (54%) reported that all their physicians were seeing patients in person, while 29% of practices indicated that the majority of their physicians were taking in-person appointments.
Many respondents with 50% of normal provider capacity noted that schedules are being kept half full and doctors are alternating weeks. Total patient loads are still much lower than pre-pandemic norms. Many practice leaders also reported that their providers are still predominantly handling telehealth appointments, either via virtual visits or telephone visits, and that patient throughput in the clinic remains much lower.
According to the MGMA, practices saw an average 55% decrease in revenue and 60% decrease in consumer volume because of COVID-19. With the removal of most stay-at-home orders nationwide, patients need to be educated to encourage them to return for care. This will help minimize the number of patients foregoing necessary care, the effects of a backlog for providers in the future and the potential negative outcomes from deferred attention to important health issues.
Practices have faced large financial losses because of lower patient volumes, and for practices still largely in a fee-for-service model, those losses will weigh heavily for as long as volumes are slow to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Additionally, as practices continue to navigate federal financial assistance options, many uncertainties remain around the loan forgiveness terms for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.