COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

March 30, 2020
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Survey: Primary care practices ‘shutting down’ routine care due to COVID-19

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Photo of Ann Greiner
Ann Greiner

COVID-19 has had a major impact on primary care offices, resulting in fewer routine visits, high staffing shortages and more telehealth visits despite uncertainty surrounding reimbursement, according to survey results of more than 500 primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants from 48 of the United States.

Ann Greiner, president and CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) — a nonprofit organization that is helping to disseminate the survey — told Healio Primary Care that the findings seriously jeopardize efforts to quickly flatten the pandemic’s curve.

“We have to address patient needs,” Greiner said. “And we also have to protect the clinical staff so that they're able to keep meeting those [patient needs]. If the workforce is sick, we’re sunk. We obviously need [hospital] beds, ventilators and the hospital clinical team but if we don't have front line clinical staff, this is not going to be pretty.”

Reference: Primary Care Collaborative and Larry A. Green Center.

Although the survey is not fielded be able in a way to be nationally representative, Greiner said the results can help policymakers get a rapid-fire better understanding of what primary care practices are facing. PCC has partnered with the Larry A. Green Center — who is developing and analyzing the survey results each week — in order to be able to evaluate trends in primary care practices and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most recent survey findings from week 2, collected from Mar. 20 to 23, showed:

  • 49% of respondents reported that COVID-19 is having a “severe impact” on their practices, an increase from 21% that was reported the week before;
  • many reported that clinicians (46%), nursing staff (45%) and front desk staff (30%) are unable to report to work due to staff illness or self-quarantine; and
  • 83% of respondents are conducting telehealth visits but 33% reported that they were unsure of how telehealth services will be reimbursed.

“Practices are really shutting down with respect to routine care,” Greiner said. “Eighty-seven percent of them are limiting well visits and chronic care visits, which has huge implications for patients and on practice revenue.”

She added that the fragmented survey results regarding telehealth were a “huge surprise.”

“Sixty percent of the practices said that they were not conducting video visits,” she said. Medicare is now paying for video, telehealth visits at the same level as face to face and have loosened regulations so that those visits can be conducted over Facebook and other social media platforms. Hopefully we will see a big surge in telehealth visits next week.” – by Janel Miller

References:

Larry A. Green Center. About. https://www.green-center.org/about. Accessed March 26. 2020.

Primary Care Collaborative. About us. https://www.pcpcc.org/about. Accessed March 26, 2020.

Primary Care & COVID-19: Week 2 Survey. Primary Care Collaborative. https://www.pcpcc.org/2020/03/26/primary-care-covid-19-week-2-survey. Accessed March 26, 2020.

Disclosure: Healio Primary Care could not confirm Greiner's relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.