A recent survey reveals the impact of the COVID-19 crises on Primary Care physicians. As a result, their patients may neglect their health or lose accessible healthcare altogether.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reset how we live, who we interact with, and the products and services to which we have access. Of those, medical care has been a continued hotspot in the US—how to get needed care for symptoms of the novel coronavirus, how to maintain health when chronically ill with other diseases, and how to get basic health care during times of community viral spread.
Primary Care physicians (PCPs) are an historically valuable component of any healthy community. Primary Care practices often provide a mix of Family Medicine (across age ranges) and Internal Medicine. From the days of the Family doctor arriving in a horse and buggy to today, when patients can often take advantage of a full-service contemporary medical practice serving inter-generational needs, PCPs occupy an important niche in health care.
According to a survey from the Primary Care Collaborative in partnership with the Larry A. Green Center, the overall fitness of Primary Care practices has suffered at a time when communities need more robust health care than ever before.
The survey represents the responses of 636 practitioners in 47 states from settings including office practices in city and rural settings, schools, community health centers, and patient-centered care facilities. Some key points of the survey include:
- The survey fielded responses from August 1, 2020 to August 24, 2020. In that time, two percent of responding practices closed, two percent were considering bankruptcy and an additional ten percent were unable to project their business solvency past the next month. These practitioners see an increase in need for primary care and a decrease in support and guidance from policy makers regarding financial and economic hardship due to the pandemic.
- Practices across the country are seeing an increase in food, financial, and housing insecurity in their patients. These anxieties translate to increased disease including weight gain, emotional and mental exhaustion, increase in substance abuse and decrease in self-care among patient populations. Despite diminishing resources, some medical practices are trying to help patients as they are able with food, housing, and financial insecurity. Some are strengthening relationships with social and public health services in order to help their patients with the strain.
- At the same time, a number of practices facing resource and financial shortfalls have had to cut back staff hours, preventative health and educational services, and struggled with staffing as personnel are exposed, in quarantine, or ill.
The healthcare network in the US is strained to breaking in portions of the country. Reduced access to care means critical treatment is missed and conditions that could be caught through diagnostic testing may be delayed. Physicians operating under stress in the surgical suite or during an office visit may make a mistake or miss a symptom.
Leadership and economic support are important for physicians and their patients to come through this crisis. Without it, Primary Care physicians may be absorbed into hospital specialty groups or simply give up their practices—leaving patients without the care they need.
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