When it comes to businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the attention seems to fall on restaurants and small stores. While these have certainly been hit hard, small private medical practices have also seen a sharp decline in revenue. In some cases, this decline has been so bad that the owners of these practices are turning to GoFundMe to help increase funds and stay solvent. The rise of telemedicine has helped, but even that can only go so far.
Within weeks of the beginning of the pandemic, a study by the Medical Group Management Association found that COVID had a negative financial effect on 97 percent of the private practices surveyed. Many employees at these practices have had their salaries reduced, and many other practices have reduced the number of patients they can treat.
Fear of Exposure
By now, most of the restrictions associated with the pandemic have been lessened or lifted altogether, but that doesn’t mean people are still fearful of exposure. They may be willing to go to shopping centers and other crowded venues now, but many are still afraid that going to a doctor’s office or a hospital will likely expose them to COVID. When you combine that with the fact that many people have been advised to stay home and quarantine themselves if they’ve been exposed to the virus, you have many people who won’t seek medical treatment unless it’s necessary.
Affordability and Lost Income
Another factor contributing to the decline in physician visits is the loss of income and insurance that many people have faced during the pandemic. Many people lost their jobs and their health insurance when the country effectively shut down. Without insurance, they would have to pay for any physician visits out of their own pockets, something they couldn’t afford without steady employment.
So, what does all of this mean for private practices around the country? Now that restrictions are easing, offices and other businesses are opening up again, but the damage to many practices may have already been done. Those practices that haven’t closed their doors are still seeing fewer patients than they did before the pandemic, and many have turned to tele-health to treat patients who can’t or won’t go to a physical office. For now, we can expect at least some of these trends to continue as we learn more about easing restrictions and how the COVID variants might come into play.