By Christopher Scuderi, DO, Vice-Chair, Practice Management Committee; and
Robert Pedowitz, DO, FACOFP, Chair, Practice Management Committee

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged physicians around the country in so many unique ways. Family medicine physicians have faced the challenges of diagnosis and treating patients with COVID-19, protecting their work teams and now increasing financial strains—all of which threaten the practices.

A recent survey of over 1,000 physicians by the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative reported that 49 percent of respondents felt severe impact on their practice, which was up from 44 percent the week before.

Many practices are facing challenges with diminishing patient volumes. This is affecting practices that, until March 2020, often had to worry about where they would fit urgent appointments. Many practices that have seen their in-person visits drop 50–75 percent over the past month.

For clinics that are looking for ways to increase their current volumes here are some ideas working around the country:

  • Shift your focus to telemedicine.
  • Shout from the rooftops that you have telemedicine available. Use channels such as your website, patient portal, emails, social medias or phone calls to increase awareness.
  • Train your staff to offer appointments in response to all phone and email portal messages.
  • Review EHR high-risk patients reports and chronic disease registries such as patients who are elderly, or those with diabetes, COPD, asthma, cancer, obesity and hypertension. Contact these patients and schedule appointments.
  • Expand hours or offer weekend telemedicine hours.
  • Increase mental health services.
  • Review your cancellation list and list of patients not seen in over one year and contact them for appointments.
  • Perform subsequent annual wellness visits and transitional care management visits via telemedicine.
  • Reach out to insurance companies to assist in communicating with care gaps.
  • Empower your team to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing the challenge of increasing patient volume during this difficult time. This may involve cross training and creating new roles as warranted.
  • Start planning for what your clinic will look like as the country reopens. Now is the time to start thinking about workflows, communication and schedules.

Family physicians can also overcome low volume by taking advantage of several government loans and grants available to those who are experiencing reduced income. (See the ACOFP COVID-19 Resource Center for links.)

Additionally, think about temporarily partnering with other physicians to help see each other’s patients in person or virtually, share resources and lower expenses. If there are multiple office locations, consider temporarily consolidating spaces to reduce overhead expenses.

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