Pandemic financial troubles persist for practices

April 2, 2021
Keith A. Reynolds

A survey found eight in 10 practices are still seeing revenue more than 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

Practices are still experiencing financial troubles tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many expanding services.

A new survey from The Larry A. Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative fielded between March 12 and 17 found that eight in 10 primary care practices report revenue more than 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels despite 46 percent reporting they’ve added or expanded the services they provide in an effort to prevent patients seeking help from using a hospital or specialty care.

These expanded services include:

  • 68 percent have begun monitoring COVID-19 patients at home or in the practice
  • 71 percent have become more involved in mental health support
  • 25 percent have increased screening for domestic violence and child abuse

The pandemic, though, has spurred the use of telehealth with 69 percent of respondents saying they’re motivated in using it because it meets patient needs. A further 45 percent say that their patients really like telehealth. Despite this, 22 percent of respondents say they’re closer to their patients than ever, according to the survey.

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, 46 percent of respondents say patients are calling their practices demanding to be vaccinated while 54 percent report their local health department has not actively engaged primary care to aid in distribution. Physicians are still willing to pitch in, as 74 percent say they’re willing to administer the vaccine yet only 9 percent say they have a reliable vendor for the drugs and know when they will receive them, the survey says.

Financial matters are still precarious as three in 10 clinicians report that reimbursement rates do not cover the cost of COVID-19 testing or vaccination. A further third of physicians say they expect to leave primary care within five years and one in three reporting burnout at an all-time high, according to the survey.