Survey: COVID-19 Is Impacting Physician Practices

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Eight percent of U.S. physicians have closed their practices as a result of COVID-19, totaling approximately 16,000 practices, according to a new survey by HASC Endorsed Business Partner Merritt Hawkins.  

The national Survey of America’s Physicians is conducted on behalf of The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to advance the work of practicing physicians and help them deliver high-quality health care to patients. Begun in 2008, the biennial survey is sent to hundreds of thousands of physicians nationwide.

The 2020 edition focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on physicians and their patients. In addition to the eight percent of physicians who closed their practices over four months, four percent plan to close in the next 12 months. Of those who have closed, 72 percent are private practice owners or partners.  

“The pandemic has had a devastating effect on many small businesses, including physician practices,” said Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic alliances for Merritt Hawkins. “Many physicians have been compelled to give up private practice in recent years due to rising costs, regulations and other challenges.”

The majority of physicians (78 percent) indicated they had experienced reduced patient or RVU volumes in the past four months. Of these, 41 percent saw volume decreases of 26 percent or more.  

Decreases in practice volume can have a ripple effect that extends to hospitals, Mosley said. He noted that on average, physicians generate $2.4 million in net revenue for their affiliated hospitals, as tracked by Merritt Hawkins.      

“Physicians are the economic engines of health care,” Mosley said. “When they slow down, the whole health care system slows down. It’s in the best interest of everyone that physician practices remain strong and viable.”

The majority of physicians surveyed believe the pandemic will be long-lasting and have significant effects on physician practices and health care delivery. Eighty-six percent believe COVID-19 will not be under control until after January 2021.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • 43 percent of physicians have reduced staff sizes due to COVID-19.
  • 12 percent – approximately 100,000 physicians — have switched to a primarily telemedicine practice.
  • 59 percent said the pandemic will result in fewer independent physician practices.
  • 50 percent said that due to the pandemic, hospitals will exert more control over health care organization and delivery.
  • 59 percent said opening public places presents a greater risk to patients than prolonging social distancing.

The survey includes additional data points and an analysis of their implications for physicians, patients, hospitals and other stakeholders. HASC members can receive the survey report by emailing Ben Adams, Director of Marketing at Merritt Hawkins.

To learn more about Merritt Hawkins or on HASC’s Endorsed Business Partner program, contact Paul Young (information at top right).