The viability of physician practices remains under threat as the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic takes a new turn with record levels of cases being reported across the United States. A new nationwide physician survey issued by the AMA shows medical practices have been economically stressed by the public health crisis with a 32% average drop in revenue.

"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," said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD. "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."

The AMA's nationally representative survey of 3,500 physicians, administered from mid-July through August 2020, illustrates precarious trends and realities that physicians face as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial impact

  • 81% of physicians surveyed said revenue was lower than in February. Revenue reductions were 50% or greater for nearly 1 out of 5 physicians.

Patient volume

  • 81% of physicians were providing fewer in-person patient visits than in February. In-person patient visits decreased 50% or greater for more than one-third of physicians.
  • Despite increased telehealth visits since February, almost 7 out of ten physicians were providing fewer total visits (in-person + telehealth). Total patient visits decreased 50% or greater for more than 1 out of 5 physicians.

Practice expenses

  • Spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) since February increased 50% or greater for nearly 2 out of 5 medical practice owners.
  • 36% of physicians said that acquiring PPE was very or extremely difficult, especially for smaller practices that lack purchasing power to compete with larger health systems.

According to the impact survey, most medical practice owners reported that the federal financial assistance programs offered early in the pandemic were very or extremely helpful. The AMA continues to work with Congress for additional COVID-19 relief, including more funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Public Health Emergency Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, as well as extending relief from the Medicare sequester and Medicare payment cuts planned to offset improved payments for office visit services through at least 2021.

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