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Physician Practices and Rural Hospitals are Experiencing Significant Financial Difficulties During COVID-19 Pandemic

There is an irony, albeit tragic, in the exploding number of individuals who are being treated at hospitals across the United States today, and that is forcing healthcare organizations of all shapes and sizes out of business.

People being treated for coronavirus are getting the care they need, but routine doctor’s visits and other healthcare procedures are the victims, with people staying home in droves and many hospitals being forced to cancel all elective procedures. Rural hospitals, especially, are feeling the pinch and many are at risk of closing.  

A study conducted early this month by the Medical Group Management Association (https://mgma.com/getattachment/9b8be0c2-0744-41bf-864f-04007d6adbd2/2004-G09621D-COVID-Financial-Impact-One-Pager-8-5x11-MW-2.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US&ext=.pdf) revealed that 97% of physician practices have experienced a negative financial impact, either directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. The average physician practice has seen its revenue decrease by 55% while overall patient volume has fallen 60% since the crisis started a month ago.

Nearly 25% of survey participants have laid off employees and nearly half have furloughed employees so far. Those figures are only projected to increase as the coronavirus pandemic rages on across the country during the coming weeks.

One gastroenterology practice that participated in the survey said the number of endoscopies it is conducted have dropped to eight per week, from 300 per week before the crisis struck. Another multi-specialty practice has experienced a 70% decline in surgeries and a 33% decline in office visits.

Making matters even worse for doctor’s is that not only are they facing severe revenue shortfalls that threaten the viability of their practice, but many of them are doing it while facing the specter of treating patients who have contracted COVID-19, putting themselves at risk. That has also raised expenses for many facilities, which are fighting with each other in some case for supplies.

Given the extremely high number of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, it is a paradox that so many physician practices are suffering, with many staffs taking pay cuts or deferring their salaries to help the offices stay afloat. But the fact is that the pandemic has affected businesses of all shapes and sizes, and that impact is likely not to stop anytime soon.

The healthcare industry was already on shaky financial footing before the coronavirus pandemic struck. That financial outlook is only going to get bleaker in the months and years to come as hospitals and healthcare organizations try to find a way to survive until things return to normal.

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