The COVID-19 crisis presented our society with a host of unexpected challenges and changes that could impact the way we interact with co-workers, family members – and doctors.

Consider this, a survey of physicians conducted at the height of the COVID-19 crisis found that nearly half of its respondents (48%) were treating patients via telemedicine. This figure is up from 18% in 2018, according to a press release issued by study authors Merritt Hawkins, a physician search firm and an AMN Healthcare company, and the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit advancing the work of physicians.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 38% of physicians are seeing COVID-19 patients
  • 60% of physicians who are not seeing COVID-19 patients are willing to do so
  • 21% of physicians have been furloughed or experienced a pay cut
  • 14% of respondents plan to change practice settings as a result of COVID-19
  • 18% plan to retire, temporarily close their practices, or opt-out of patient care
  • 30% who are treating COVID-19 patients are feeling great stress but will continue to see patients

Meanwhile, about one-third of physicians (32%) indicated that they will change practice settings, leave patient care roles, temporarily shut their practices, or retire in response to COVID-19. This should be of particular concern to hospitals and other health care organizations already struggling with physician shortages and turnover, according to Travis Singleton, Executive Vice President of Merritt Hawkins.

“Once the pandemic has been contained there will be a backlog of procedures and pervasive COVID-19 testing. Physician re-engagement and retention will be of even more importance,” Singleton said.

“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians were expressing dissatisfaction in their jobs and experiencing high rates of burnout and mental health issues caused by stressors like regulatory burdens and EHR [electronic health record] use,” said Gary Price M.D., president of The Physicians Foundation. “The pandemic is straining physicians further and we need to prioritize providing solutions that will ease the financial and emotional burdens they are feeling as a means to improve their wellbeing now and after the crisis is resolved.  It is the least we can do for the health care workers who are risking their lives to take care of everyone else.”

A positive takeaway of the survey is, of the physicians who are currently not treating COVID-19 patients, 60% are willing to do so and one-third (34%) have more time due to the decline in office visits resulting from the pandemic.

Survey data is based on responses from 842 physicians across the country and the survey has a margin of error rate of +/- 3.5%. Further information about the survey can be accessed at www.merritthawskins.com or https://physiciansfoundation.org/.

Sources:

The press release may be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/yc6f83mr


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