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Analysis

AMA Coronavirus Survey: Physician Practice Revenue Down 32%

By Christopher Cheney  
   October 29, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic-related decreases in patient volume and increases in costs for infection control are hitting physician practices hard.

Physician practices remain "under threat" from severe financial strain from the coronavirus pandemic, an American Medical Association survey published this week shows.

Drops in patient volume and increases in costs for infection control such personal protective equipment (PPE) have hit physician practice bottom lines hard during the pandemic. In the spring, a poll conducted by the Primary Care Collaborative and The Larry A. Green Center found only 33% of primary care clinicians had enough cash on hand to function for four weeks.

The AMA survey published this week, which was conducted from mid-July through the end of August, found a 32% average drop in revenue at physician practices.

AMA President Susan Bailey says physician practices are struggling financially and need federal assistance.

"Physician practices continue to be under significant financial stress due to reductions in patient volume and revenue, in addition to higher expenses for supplies that are scarce for some physicians. More economic relief is needed now from Congress as some medical practices contemplate the brink of viability, particularly smaller practices that are facing a difficult road to recovery," Bailey said in a prepared statement.

The AMA survey features data collected from 3,500 physicians. The survey includes several key data points:

  • 81% of survey respondents said revenue remained below pre-pandemic levels
     
  • 81% of survey respondents said in-person patient visits remained below pre-pandemic levels
     
  • Despite a significant increase in telemedicine visits, the survey found 70% of physicians were conducting fewer total patient visits than before the pandemic.
     
  • Two-thirds of physician practice owners reported increased spending on PPE, with the average hike in PPE spending pegged at 57%.
     
  • One-third of survey respondents said acquiring PPE was very or extremely difficult.
     
  • Federal assistance was popular in the survey: 80% of survey respondents said the Cares Act was very or extremely helpful, 71% of survey respondents said the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program was very or extremely helpful, and 88% of survey respondents said the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program was very or extremely helpful.

Related: AHA Says COVID-19-Related Losses for Hospitals Will Surpass $200B

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

In an American Medical Association poll conducted this summer, 81% of physicians said revenue remained below pre-pandemic levels.

Despite a significant increase in telemedicine visits, the survey found 70% of physicians were conducting fewer total patient visits than before the pandemic.

Two-thirds of physician practice owners reported increased spending on personal protective equipment, with the average hike in PPE spending pegged at 57%.


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