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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, and even though the number of infections is not as high as they were in March through to May, the effects of this pandemic are quite severe as individuals lose their jobs with the closure of business or the need to downsize.
US healthcare is one of the affected areas – Yes, it is ironic but true. Many hospitals have had to close down as telehealth services increase. Even with in-person hospital visits coming back as medical practices open their doors while observing social distancing rules and keeping open sanitization spots as everyone is encouraged to wear a mask, the numbers remain low, and this continues to aggravate things for clinics and rural medical facilities, which are now reporting dried up revenues.
Private medical practices also continue to feel the coronavirus pandemic’s bite as they struggle to stay open during these unprecedented times. Like urban hospitals, the number of hospital visits in rural areas remains low, as doctors running their own medical practices see huge hits in revenue.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the effects of the pandemic on medical practices and what these medical practices are doing to survive.
If you are in the medical industry and aren’t quite sure what to do to survive, this article shares important insights into what you could do.
How are medical practices affected by the coronavirus pandemic?
1. Loss of revenue
Most of the medical practices, especially the independent practices, note that this pandemic’s effects have been devastating, especially because there has been a significant reduction in the number of patients walking into their facilities for treatment.
The drop in revenue has been further aggravated by the fact most doctors are not performing non-essential and elective procedures anymore. This is often one of the biggest sources of revenue for medical practices. The fact that booked procedures and expected procedures had to be canceled means huge losses in expected future earnings for these practices.
For example, for independent medical practitioners, ophthalmologists, dentists, and even vascular surgeons, COVID-19 has affected their businesses significantly, especially because these businesses were forced to scale back to close to zero patients overnight. Having run a business that would bring in money (patients) daily only to have a directive forcing you to shut down your business overnight will have a huge impact on any business. This is what most medical practitioners have been grappling with for months now.
It’s also worth noting that even after Congress decided to give $100 billion to health providers and hospitals to ensure their survival, there was nothing earmarked for the smaller and the independent practices all over the country. As a result, these practices were left to fend for themselves.
2. Loss of employment
With the sudden loss of income from the canceled elective procedures and the fact that most people were forced to stay at home if they didn’t have life-threatening conditions, the small and medium-sized practices were forced to send their employees home because they couldn’t make payroll. Over the past few months, the practices that remained open have struggled to make payroll, even as they downsize and only retain their essential services employees, while only taking emergency cases.
Nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on healthcare employment, with the public health response and the pandemic resulting in the most extraordinary job losses throughout the US. It’s reported that there was a decrease in employment by about 20 million people (13%) between February and May 2020. These losses resulted from hospitals’ concerns getting overwhelmed by the COVID-19 cases in the hospitals, a situation that would result in limitations in the numbers of supplies and staffing. As a result, non-emergency, routine, and elective medical services had to be delayed or even canceled, hence job losses.
There was also the fear and endless concerns over contracting the virus from the hospitals, which led to patients going without the care they needed. This created a vacuum, and more people had to be laid off as a result.
While the healthcare sector recovered at least 300,000 jobs in May, especially in dental practices, the industry’s employment rate continues to decline.
3. Slow return to ‘normal.’
We have to admit that the world is never going back to what was perceived as ‘normal’ before February/ March of 2020, but even then, businesses are not picking up as fast as one would have expected. Some medical practices are only running at 50% their capacity, even as they record a huge dip in revenues by 75% to 80%.
4. Hardest Hit Medical Professionals
While you’d expect every professional medical willing to work to be working, the truth is that there has been a large number of individuals in the medical profession affected by the pandemic. On top of this list, you have primary care practices and professionals who’ve laid off and the ones that have furloughed their employees because of the closure of the medical practices, which consequently in the loss of that point of care for the patients.
Then you have pediatricians, who are not only some of the lowest-paid medical specialties but also the group not receiving any help from the government because these specialists do not treat Medicare patients. As things progressed and Congress stepped up to help the medical field, the pediatricians weren’t compensated for the declining number of patient visits, even as parents skipped checkups, choosing not to take their children to the doctor.
Remedial Action/ Survival Tips – How are Medical Practices Are Surviving during the Coronavirus Pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic remains a big struggle in the world today. Though things are not back to normal and aren’t really expected to go back to how they were at the beginning of the year, there are things that the affected medical practices could do to survive this pandemic.
Telehealth going mainstream
We were against telehealth for the longest time, but with the coronavirus pandemic changing the way we do things, an increasing number of individuals are finally up for telehealth. All the bad policies that were a huge hindrance to telehealth, for example, limitations on Medicare Coverage, as well as state restrictions for medical practices operating across state lines), not to mention the attachment of patients to the old-fashioned hospital visits and the ‘laying of hands’ medicine is being reviewed slowly, and this proves to be one of the most effective ways of ‘going’ to the doctor today.
There has been a surge in telehealth services from March, and the medical practices that have adopted this approach are surviving. The relaxed rules have also fuelled this by the Trump administration, which now sees the video and phone calls between doctors and patients covered by the insurance program. Private insurers have also followed suit, which has resulted in a boost in income to the telemedicine consultations.
The best part is that these telehealth services are quite broad, and patients can access the same quality of service (except for actual tests), including therapy costs.
Patients are also finding telehealth to be more convenient, and with more patients being okay with this approach, some patients and practices note that they might never go back to the older ways.
Smart use of Medicare advances, along with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Some medical professionals and practitioners have been able to survive the effects of the coronavirus pandemic because they were lucky to receive their Medicare advances and the PPP. These made it possible for these practitioners to stay afloat. So, even though they had to lay off some of their employees, these funds allowed them to have some level of service continuity, given the current circumstances. Thanks to these funds, these are some of the practices that can reopen as the heatpandemic’s heats down.
While this isn’t something that will occur overnight, primary care health providers and independent practitioners have felt the brunt of the pandemic. As some of the file for bankruptcy and close down altogether, it is expected that a good number of these medical practitioners will opt to consolidate their services, all for their survival.
Other strategies for surviving the coronavirus pandemic.
Medical practitioners have also been affected by the pandemic personally, as many people report declining mental health status and an overall sense of hopelessness. The future remains unpredictable, and even with telehealth picking up pace, there is an uncertainty in the air. Medical professionals, such as primary care physicians, are worried about the patients they cannot reach, and things remain bleak.
But as the going gets tough, it’s important to keep hope. As a medical practitioner, you need to take good care of yourself.
Here are some of the psychological survival tips you need to try to get through this global pandemic.
Maintain a routine
Some days will be heavy on you than other days, but you should have a routine set up to ensure that you get through the worst. Take a shower at a specific time, schedule time for a light workout, eat a balanced meal at a specific time, tidy your space, and plan out your day. It’s okay on the hard days if all you do is take a shower and crawl to the bed or couch.
Relax and Recharge
Things are slowly going back to ‘normal,’ but this is not the case for everyone. If you are still working from home or working on your resume as you look for a new job, this would be the best time for you to relax, reset, recharge, reframe, and recalibrate. Use the new circumstances to push you into something new, into a new path, and maybe learn new things to chart a different career path. Besides career, make this your self-discovery journey.
Get your health back.
Think of the coronavirus pandemic as a way for you to get your health and life back. The rat-race leaves us depleted and with little to no time to ourselves, and one of the most unfortunate effects of this fast-paced life is an overall level of poor health and unfit health, riddled with high cholesterol and poor heart health. With the pandemic around us and nothing much to do, you could finally get some time to work on your body. Get some vitamin D, move your body, make healthier food choices.
Reflection, Mindfulness, and Attaining A Spiritual Connection
You might have veered off your ways, and you find yourself out of your mind and unaware of what’s going in all around you often. COVID-19 has allowed the world to heal, and now is your time to go inwards as you reflect on all the important things in your life by practicing mindfulness and just being more aware of who you are. It could also be the best time for you to build or refocus on your spiritual connection. These small things matter at the of the day, and they are what will make the biggest difference in your life, especially if you have been struggling to attain inner peace.
Time to connect
Connect with your family and friends. We are social beings, and we rely on all manner of social connections. Talk to the people you love, laugh, and if you haven’t spoken to friends in a long time, now might be the best time for you to rekindle those friendships.
Getting back to the world
As you work on getting back on the horse, either because you got a new job or have your old job back, there are several measures put in place by the CDC to ensure that the healthcare systems are all and the healthcare workers are safe and that their practices are patients are safe. We are talking about everything from social distancing to PPEs, sanitizing, situational awareness, and clear communication.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot in our lives. Anyone with a medical practice in coronavirus pandemic will tell you that this has been their most challenging year yet. But with telehealth being embraced by many people and the changes in setups and operations at medical practices, there is some hope on the horizon.
However, real change is expected when it comes to overall health preparedness and surveillance. There is a need to rethink how the federal government and the drugmakers handle urgent needs. A positive response is expected from all the moves and pushes made to ensure the expansion of health coverage.