Survey: Vast majority of physicians can’t test for COVID-19

April 2, 2020

An even larger majority say their hospital or clinic does not have adequate medical supplies and equipment if the pandemic worsens.

A new survey of physicians throws the healthcare challenge of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic into stark relief.

Gathering responses from more than 2,600 physicians between March 21 and 24; Doximity, Harvard Medical School, and RAND discovered that 73.3 percent of respondents say they are not able to test their patients for COVID-19 quickly and easily. Only 17.5 percent of respondents say the can test quickly and easily.

A further 50.2 percent of respondents say they have treated between one and more than 10 patients with COVID-19 symptoms but have not been able to test them, the survey says.

Testing has become a flashpoint of the conflict over the government response to the pandemic, despite repeated claims from President Donald J. Trump that testing is widespread.

A shocking 77.5 percent of respondents say their hospital or clinic does not have sufficient medical supplies if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, while 10.4 percent say they do not know. Nearly as many respondents, 69.9 percent, say the government has not taken appropriate steps to support the medical supply chain, the survey says.

Of the respondents, 70 percent say there have been significant challenges due to the government’s response to the pandemic.

An additional 59.1 percent of respondents say there aren’t enough precautions in their clinical settings that they feel protected when treating suspected COVID-19 patients, according to the survey.

The federal government’s response to the current pandemic has many experts nervous about what is to come in the next few months. Trump’s reticence in using the Defense Production Act to increase the country’s stock of personal protective equipment like face guards and N95 respirators has led physicians to organize crowdfunding campaigns and donation drives.

Earlier this week, The Joint Commission put its weight behind a push from doctors seeking to bring their own personal protective equipment from home to ensure their safety while treating COVID-19 patients.

One precaution the Trump administration has flirted with is social distancing, but 59.5 percent of respondents say that a full shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, like what has been initiated by many state governments but widely rejected by the administration, would help flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases the most.

Physicians are avoiding unnecessary contact with their patients, though, as 52.7 percent of respondents say they’re now using telehealth in their practice and an additional 28.1 percent say they’re moving toward using the service. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recently relaxed regulations on which kinds of these services are covered for their beneficiaries.

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