Kareo Shares Survey Results on Impact of COVID-19 on Independent Practices
Independent Practices Feeling Impact of COVID-19
In the survey, conducted late March, 75% of participants said they are either offering a telehealth option or intend to deploy one soon. The survey also highlighted the risks to patients and independent medical practices during the COVID-19 crisis. Nine percent of healthcare providers reported their practice had closed and many more said they were concerned about a potential closure since patient office visits have plummeted due to “stay at home” orders and other concerns. As Kareo was compiling the survey results, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, potentially providing a lifeline to the most severely impacted medical practices.
By mid-March, independent healthcare professionals were already facing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to them personally as well as to their practices. While 63% of practices were still delivering on-site care, most of these practices were exploring options to move to hybrid or exclusively telehealth-based care. Kareo’s ongoing analysis of actual patient encounters across their client list of 75,000 medical providers, found that by late March, independent medical practices had experienced approximately 35% decline in patient volume, raising alarm around both the apparent inability for patients to access care and the operational viability of medical practices if this trend continues.
Medical Billing Companies also Impacted by Crisis
Kareo’s research also highlighted the impact felt by their more than 5,000 medical billing partner companies across the country. These service providers reported an immediate impact on their businesses due to precipitous decline in medical practice patient volume. These companies play a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem by providing medical billing expertise, which is essential for the financial viability of many independent medical practices. Financial risk to these service providers creates another risk for medical practices to manage as practice volumes ultimately return to normal.
Telehealth Solutions Increasing Dramatically During Crisis
To address “stay at home” orders and patient concerns about face-to-face medical encounters, healthcare professionals have rapidly turned to telehealth solutions. By mid-March, fully 41% of independent medical practices reported offering telehealth, up from 22% reported in Kareo’s State of the Independent Practice Report in late 2018. An additional 34% reported current efforts to deploy telehealth options, which ultimately will result in the vast majority (75%) of medical practices providing remote care solutions. In the third week of March, Kareo saw a 500% week-over-week increase in telehealth visits while working to accommodate an over 3,000% increase in telehealth adoption.
The easing of regulatory requirements related to telehealth security and functionality has allowed medical practices to access a broader set of possible telehealth solutions. The solutions range from medically specific options like Kareo Telehealth, which is HIPAA compliant and fully integrated with a patient engagement, EHR and billing technology platform, to general video call technology such as Apple FaceTime. Easing Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance reimbursement requirements for telehealth also supported the rapid pivot to virtual-care and are essential in supporting the financial viability of medical practices and their supporting medical billers.
“Independent medical practices stand as the cornerstone of the U.S. healthcare system and are responsible for more than two-thirds of annual patient visits,” said Dan Rodrigues, Founder and CEO of Kareo. “Yet our research shows that even doctors are not immune to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Telehealth and the CARES Act provide critical lifelines to ensure independent practices remain available to their patients through this crisis.”
Help for Small Healthcare Businesses During COVID-19 Crisis
There are several government programs that practices can take advantage of to ease financial burdens and maintain their current staff levels. Small business loans, tax relief, Medicare payment advances and grants are a few of the options currently available. In combination, these programs can help ensure that independent medical practices and clinics emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with minimal damage to the long-term viability of their business.
Federal Financial Assistance
The CARES Act expands eligibility for loans under Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act and authorizes the Small Business Administration to make $349 billion in Section 7(a) loans. The CARES Act also offers an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit) designed to encourage eligible employers to keep employees on their payroll. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded their current Accelerated and Advance Payment Program to a broader group of Medicare Part A providers and Part B suppliers. Details on the eligibility, and the request process are outlined in the Expansion of the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program fact sheet. The expansion of these programs is also only for the duration of the public health emergency.
For a deep dive into the federal government’s unprecedented financial assistance programs, Kareo is conducting a webinar this Wednesday, April 15 at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Bill Finerfrock, HBMA Director of Government Affairs, will break down the CARES Act and its associated programs to provide you with key takeaways to help ease financial burdens and maintain current staff levels. In the webinar, Bill will discuss the Paycheck Protection Program, other SBA programs, Medicare Advanced Payment Options and Provider Lost Revenue Program. You can register here to attend this informative webinar.
Kareo COVID-19 Resources Available
Kareo wants all independent medical practices and medical billing companies to succeed and has prepared several resources to help during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. These resources are available on the Kareo website including a COVID-19-dedicated resource page and:
Telehealth, Coding and Billing Guidance for COVID-19
Telehealth, Coding, and Billing Resource Guide and FAQs
COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide
COVID-19 Stimulus Package Updates