Survey: Coronavirus putting the squeeze on primary care practices

April 23, 2020

The survey, from mid-April, shows nearly half of respondents don’t know if they will be able to keep their practices open.

A Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) survey from mid-April shows the deep impact the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is having on primary care physicians.

The survey was performed from April 10 to 13 by PCC in collaboration with The Larry A. Green Center and found that 47 percent of respondents say they are unsure if they will have enough cash to stay open.

This lack of cashflow seems tied to national efforts to limit unnecessary procedures and office visits as 85 percent of respondents say they have seen a dramatic decrease in patient volume during the pandemic. On top of the economic impact, the pandemic is putting stress of primary care physicians as 42 percent of the respondents say they’re concerned about layoffs and furloughing staff while 75 percent say that COVID-19 has put severe or close to severe stress on their practice, the survey says.

Twenty percent of the respondents say they predict their practice will close within four weeks.

“Opening up the country and getting the economy going again will be difficult or impossible if there is not enough testing and PPE and many primary care practices are closed for business,” 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. “We’re seeing so much economic pain among patients and practices. When primary care is endangered, patients and the whole health system are endangered.”

A key component of reopening the economy lies in testing, but 34 percent of respondents say they have no capacity for testing for COVID-19, while 32 percent say they only have limited capacity. Of the 2,600 respondents, 53 percent say they lack personal protective equipment while 58 percent rely on used and homemade protective equipment greatly increasing the chance that practice staff might become infected, the survey says.

The survey calls on congress to take bold action with the upcoming stimulus bill in order to shore up primary care practices and ensure they can weather the pandemic. That bill is was passed by the Senate April 21, and is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives April 23.

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