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Physician Practices Are In Critical Condition Due To Coronavirus

Topic: Physician Practices Are In Critical Condition Due To Coronavirus

Traditionally, physicians and healthcare professionals generally have multiple options when seeking employment and determining how they can practice medicine. A few of these options, though not a comprehensive list, include: starting their own private practice, becoming an employee of an already established practice, or joining a larger group or healthcare/hospital system. Often, the specialty in consideration determines what venue makes the most sense. For example, emergency medicine is most often practiced in a larger, hospital setting (though free-standing ER’s are another common alternative), while specialtes like family medicine, dermatology, or pediatrics can be practiced both in the outpatient clinic setting independently, or within the hospital. Indeed, the different practice models each have their respective benefits and drawbacks, and physicians are often managing their own personal expectations of autonomy, quality of care, resources available, finances, and patient population, when determining what practice model is best for them.

According to many physicians, one of the most valued aspects of private practice is generally autonomy: a provider is better able to shape their practice based on their own vision of healthcare. However, this often comes with its own financial and administrative burdens. Smaller and more private groups have to compete with larger healthcare systems that have already established their name and have invested infrastructure in a given community.

Two weeks ago, prestigious management consulting firm McKinsey & Company published the results of a groundbreaking study looking into physician employment and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the general landscape of medical practice. The report indicates that “[t]he demand shock from COVID-19 is unprecedented, and many physician respondents believe that the resulting loss of revenue will put their practices at financial risk. Six weeks into COVID-19, 53 percent of all independent physicians reported that they were worried about their practices surviving the COVID-19 challenge.” What’s even more frightening is that “[a]lmost half of all independent physician practices said they had less than four weeks of cash on hand…[and] Many independent physicians said that, due to COVID-19, they were considering partnering with a larger entity, selling their practice, or becoming employed.”

While many physicians may still continue to forge ahead as private practitioners despite the difficulties, these results indicate a very dire climate for a large number of independent practices. Many reasons can be speculated for the financial struggles these practices are undergoing, the most likely of which is simply due to decreased patient volumes. As communities necessarily emphasized strict discipline during the beginning of the pandemic to stay-at-home and isolate as much as possible, many individuals stopped going into their doctor’s office for routine and primary care services. As this trend continued, many institutions and practices were forced to pursue changing models of healthcare delivery. Some have since adopted telemedicine and other forms of virtual or remote clinical visits, while others have been slower at making changes, likely resulting in financial distress. Given the situation at hand, the future seems uncertain for smaller physician groups and practices. Only time will tell what will happen to these critical healthcare services.

Topic Discussed: Physician Practices Are In Critical Condition Due To Coronavirus

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