Medical practices report over 30% drop in revenue as pandemic continues

CHICAGO —The American Medical Association (AMA) warned that U.S. physician practices are in serious danger of financial ruin as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, with an AMA survey finding that practice revenue has plummeted over the course of the public health crisis.

The nationally representative survey, which was administered to 3,500 physicians from mid-July through August of this year, “illustrates precarious trends and realities that physicians face as they continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the AMA argued in a press release.

“Physician practices continue to be under significant financial stress due to reductions in patient volume and revenue, in addition to higher expenses for supplies that are scarce for some physicians,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, in a statement. “More economic relief is needed now from Congress as some medical practices contemplate the brink of viability, particularly smaller practices that are facing a difficult road to recovery.”

Among the survey results:

  • 81% of respondents said revenue was lower than in February; revenue reductions were 50% or more for nearly 1 out of 5 physicians.
  • 81% of respondents were providing fewer in-person patient visits than in February; in-person visits decreased by 50% or more for over one third of physicians.
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 physicians reported fewer total visits — in-person and telehealth — despite increased telehealth visits since February; total visits decreased by 50% or more for over 1 out of 5 physicians.
  • Spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) since February increased by 50% or more for almost 2 out of 5 medical practice owners.
  • 36% of respondents said that acquiring PPE was very or extremely difficult, “especially for smaller practices that lack purchasing power to compete with larger health systems.”

Most medical practice owners who responded to the survey also reported that federal financial assistance programs that were offered early in the course of the pandemic “were very or extremely helpful,” the AMA added. “The AMA continues to work with Congress for additional Covid-19 relief, including more funding for the HHS Public Health Emergency Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, as well as extending relief from the Medicare sequester and Medicare payment cuts planned to offset improved payments for office visit services through at least 2021.”

In the meantime, the AMA encouraged private practices to review the organization’s tools and resources intended to support physicians as they fight the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

John McKenna, Associate Editor, BreakingMED™

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