‘A financial crisis’

95% of DOs in private practice experienced a drop in practice revenue during the pandemic

A new survey gauges the financial impact of COVID-19 on physician practices.

A new survey found that 95% of osteopathic physicians in private practice experienced a decline in practice revenue as a result of COVID-19. More than 40% of DOs in private practice anticipate that their practice revenue will be cut in half or more, according to the survey.

The American Osteopathic Information Association (AOIA) and the AOA conducted this nationwide survey of practicing physicians to gauge the financial toll that COVID-19 has taken on them. In total, 742 osteopathic physicians practicing in 40 medical specialties and 47 states responded. Approximately 40% of the participating physicians are in a primary care specialty.

Practices need additional financial support

When the pandemic rapidly altered the delivery of care across the health care system, small- and mid-sized physician practices faced economic obstacles similar to other hard-hit industries.

“Perhaps the most important takeaway from the survey is that three-quarters of physicians said they will need additional financial support to continue providing quality patient care,” AOA President Ronald Burns, DO, FACOFP, said. “Family doctors, internists, pediatricians, and OB-GYNs now face a financial crisis that endangers the health of our nation.”

DOs have remained steadfast in delivering health care on the front lines. However, many physician practices face financial stress resulting from a challenging combination of shrinking patient volumes coupled with required investments in telehealth.

“While the AOA appreciates the steps taken by Congress and the administration to facilitate health care delivery and provide financial support during this unprecedented emergency, it is clear that additional action is urgently needed in order to preserve patient access to care both during the COVID-19 pandemic and after,” Dr. Burns said.

About half of the survey respondents have received a provider relief payment from HHS, and 42% received a loan from the Small Business Administration.

Access to care threatened

Closures of physician practices threaten access to routine care, such as vaccinations and wellness checkups, as well as the ability to seek care for more urgent medical needs.

“Maintaining our physician workforce and ensuring physicians can stay in their current practice settings will protect the country during COVID-19 and support the long-term health of the nation,” said AOA Past President and AOIA Chair Norman Vinn, DO.

Advocacy continues

The AOA public policy team has been advocating for osteopathic physicians and students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advocacy wins include initial financial relief for affected physicians, expanded loans for small businesses, increased Medicare payment rates for telehealth and additional funding for PPE. Learn more here.

The team recently sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting the following policy recommendations for physicians and students affected by COVID-19:

  • Additional financial support;
  • Student loan repayment;
  • Liability protections;
  • PPE funding;
  • And more.

The AOA public policy team is also running an associated grassroots campaign in which individual physicians and students can urge their lawmakers to provide additional support as well. It has also partnered with multiple osteopathic state affiliates to engage in grassroots efforts to support liability protections for physicians during the pandemic.

Related reading:

Physician earnings in 2020: Before and after COVID-19 hit the US

Pandemic stress, fatigue lead some physicians to reconsider their role

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