No Consensus Yet Among Independent Medical Practices on the Timeline to Pre-Pandemic Patient Volumes
IRVINE, Calif., April 29, 2020 – For the second time since the pandemic began, Kareo has conducted a comprehensive survey to examine how independent medical practices are being impacted by and responding to the coronavirus pandemic. In late April, 500 medical practices, broadly representing primary care, medical specialty, mental health, and physical and occupational therapy professionals, were interviewed by Kareo, the leading provider of cloud-based clinical and business management software for independent healthcare practices. Just over 20% of the survey respondents reported complete closures of their medical practices – up from 9% in late March. These closures are more prevalent in physical therapy and medical specialist practices, while almost all mental health clinics and almost 90% of primary care practices have remained open. Of those practices still open, they report an average 40% decline in patient volumes during the pandemic with the most impact on physical therapy clinics where the average decline is over 65%. Mental health professionals have experienced the smallest patient volume declines at just under 20%.
No consensus has emerged among independent medical practices on the timeline for a return to more typical patient volumes. Roughly 33% expect volumes to recover in May, while another 30% expect volumes to recover by the end of June. Considerable uncertainty still exists, however, with 37% not expecting a recovery until some time after June. When patients do re-engage with their medical caregivers, 47% of medical practices expect a surge in patient volume due to delayed care during the first few months of the pandemic. Mental health professionals expect the most material surge in volumes, likely due to increased care needs created by the pandemic itself.
Uncertainty around the path forward and patient volume recovery timing reflects material open questions around the availability of wide-scale testing, whether the virus will ebb during the summer months only to return in the fall, the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 treatments, and when or if a vaccine will be deployed. Even with the unique insights available to healthcare professionals, these factors mean that what comes next remains a guessing game for independent medical practices. In the meantime, many are applying new technology and offering new services in an attempt to ensure continued access by their patients to medical care and support. The most notable example is telehealth.
By the end of April, 32% of practices still open had moved to care exclusively through telehealth, while 17% only offered in-office care, and 51% offered both options. These numbers imply 100% growth in telehealth utilization in just the month of April and more than 300% growth since the pandemic began. Fully 48% of respondents reported deploying telehealth for the first time – joining the 25% of practices already leveraging virtual care. Just over 70% of those now using telehealth expect to continue to use telehealth after the pandemic ends – implying that telehealth usage will roughly double as both practices and patients become comfortable with non-face-to-face care, and compliance and reimbursement rules move in favor of telehealth.
“It’s sobering to consider that 20% of the foundation of the U.S. healthcare system, the independent medical practice, have been taken offline by the pandemic,” said Dan Rodrigues, founder and CEO of Kareo. “But on a positive note, some healthcare professionals are starting to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ while also deploying new technologies, like telehealth, to ensure care access during this time. Some of the changes made will benefit patients and practices long after this crisis ends.”
The easing of regulatory requirements related to telehealth security and functionality allowed medical practices to access a broader set of possible telehealth solutions, ranging from medically specific options like Kareo Telehealth that are HIPAA-compliant and fully integrated with the broader patient engagement, electronic health record, and billing technology platform, all the way to general video call technology such as Zoom or Facebook. Fully 33% of the medical practices surveyed using telehealth reported using non-medical solutions – highlighting the future need for these practices to move to more secure and HIPAA-compliant options.
As practices are continuing to deal with challenges related to COVID-19, more information on resources available to help with the coronavirus crisis can be found at www.Kareo.com/covid-19.
Kareo is the only cloud-based complete medical technology platform purpose-built to meet the unique needs of independent practices in more than 45 specialties. Today Kareo helps over 65,000 providers in all 50 states run more efficient and profitable practices, while delivering outstanding patient care. The Kareo technology platform is the first to help independent practices find more patients, manage their care with a fully certified and easy-to-use EHR, and get paid quickly all in one complete and integrated package. Kareo has received extensive industry recognition, including the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, Inc. 5000, and Black Book's #1 Integrated EHR, Practice Management and Medical Billing vendor, as well as ranking at the top of the Leader Quadrant in the FrontRunners Software Analysis of EHR. Kareo's growth further demonstrates the expansion and vitality of the independent practice market in the U.S. With offices across the country, Kareo’s mission is to help independent practices succeed in an ever-changing healthcare market. More information can be found at www.kareo.com.