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The Impact of COVID-19 on Primary Care Practices

Primary care physicians’ practices have been uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are coping with a decline in patient volume — and revenue — because individuals are more afraid to leave their home, while also trying to manage with reducing staffing levels, largely due to increased demands for child care that are forcing employees to stay at home instead of being able to go to work. While many physicians have pivoted to accepting more visits via telehealth platforms, it has not completely offset the decline in patient volume and has left many practices scrambling to figure out how to stay in business.

Nearly half of the respondents to a survey ([https://www.pcpcc.org/2020/09/21/primary-care-covid-19-week-20-survey)]conducted recently indicated that their mental exhaustion levels are at an all-time high. More than one-in-10 primary care physicians have left private practice because of the strain that the pandemic placed on them. But, like as in any feel-good movie worth its salt, the pandemic has led many doctors to rise to the challenge. One in five of the survey’s respondents said there sense of purpose in what they do is at an all-time high because of the pandemic. Those doctors have chosen to rise to the challenge of their calling during this difficult period and are devoting themselves to providing excellent primary care. A separate survey of primary care physicians revealed that a majority of them expect there to be fewer independent practices in their communities once the pandemic is over. ([https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/could-covid-19-spell-the-end-of-independent-physician-practices)]

Primary care practices are projected to lose nearly $70,000 in revenue per physician in 2020, according to one study, which was released this summer. The loss in revenue is attributed to a decrease in the number of patients visiting a practice and the lower revenue associated with converting some visits to telehealth appointments.
The revenue that has been lost and the stress that has been ramped up will hopefully start to normalize in 2021 as the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines becomes more widespread, but the ramifications of 2020 will be felt for years to come. Taking important steps, like staying engaged with patients and maximizing the collection of unpaid debts, can go a long way toward helping practices get back on their feet faster, and make the difference between just staying in business and thriving.

As the calendar turns to a new year and a sense of optimism continues to creep its way back into our lives, there are plenty of reasons to be grateful and hopeful for what is to come.

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PPMS is a management system for recovery agencies based upon developing, implementing and adhering to a set of strict industry-specific professional practices and policies.

PPMS certification, much like a SAS-70 audit, requires independent CPA attestation that an agency has in place written policies, procedures, and work processes that ensure regulatory compliance and adherence to industry best practices. The agency must also demonstrate that it has procedures in place to identify and remediate any variance from these. PPMS certified agencies are subject to annual surveillance and must re-certify every five years.

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