The Physicians Foundation 2020 Survey of America's Physicians

August 18, 2020

 

The Physicians Foundation

2020 Survey of America’s Physicians

 

New Survey Uncovers Nearly Half of Physicians Believe COVID-19 Will Not Be Under Control Until After June 2021

2020 Survey of America’s Physicians Examines Impact of COVID-19 On Physicians and Their Patients

The Physicians Foundation today released its biennial Survey of America’s Physicians revealing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices and their patients. This year’s survey is a three-part series examining how COVID-19 is affecting and is perceived by the nation’s physicians. The first part of the survey, COVID-19’s Impact on Physicians’ Practices and Patients, finds that the majority (86%) of physicians believe COVID-19 won’t be under control until January 2021, with nearly half (49%) not seeing the virus being under control until after June 1, 2021. Furthermore, a majority (72%) of physicians believe that the virus will severely impact patient health outcomes due to delayed routine care during the pandemic.

“The data reveals a near-consensus among America’s physicians about COVID-19’s immediate and lasting impact on our health care system,” said Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation. “We are living through a historical shift in the way we practice and how we deliver care to patients. Our health care landscape is constantly changing right now, and we expect it will be radically different for both physicians and our patients long after the pandemic passes.”

Patient Outcomes

Physicians see a potential harm to patients caused by the “indirect effects” of the virus. The primary indirect harm to patients presented by COVID-19, cited by 75% of physicians, is employment changes that may result in patients losing health insurance. The loss of employer-based health insurance may prevent patients from seeking the care they need and in turn, exacerbate their ill health. 

Further, 67% of physicians indicated that patient reluctance to seek medical care due to COVID-19 presents great harm to patients, while 65% said closure of physician practices presents great harm to patients.

In addition, 59% see opening businesses, schools and public places as a bigger risk to patients than continuing policies of isolation.

Physician Practices

The majority of physicians believe that the pandemic will have long-lasting effects within the communities they serve, with 59% citing that COVID-19 will lead to a reduction in the number of independent physician practices in their communities. Eight percent of physicians have already closed their practices as a result of COVID-19, a number totaling approximately 16,000 practices. In addition, 43% of physicians have reduced staff due to COVID-19.

Despite new and mounting challenges faced by physicians amid COVID-19, nearly all (96%), will not leave medicine because of pandemic-related health risks. This optimistic outlook comes on the heels of Paycheck Protection Program Support, with 75% of those who applied indicating they received support and it was sufficient for them to stay open.

“Physicians are the foundation of our health care system, and those on the frontlines of the pandemic are evidence of this fact as they continue to care for their patients, families and colleagues,” said Robert Seligson, CEO of The Physicians Foundation. “This survey emphasizes how the pre-existing issues within our health care system, such as physician shortages and lack of patient access to health care, will continue to worsen unless we empower and support physicians as they continue to work tirelessly through a global pandemic.”

Additional findings from the 2020 Survey of America’s Physicians: COVID-19’s Impact on Physicians’ Practices and Their Patients include:

  • One-half of physicians (50%) said that hospitals will exert stronger influence over the organization and delivery of health care as a result of the pandemic.  
  • More than one-third of physicians (37%) saw volume decreases of 25% or less, which in some practices is sustainable in the short-term.
  • Forty-one percent of physicians saw volume decreases of 26% or more, which may be difficult or impossible for most physician practices to sustain for more than a few months.
  • Twelve percent of physicians – approximately 100,000 – have switched to a primarily telemedicine practice as a result of COVID-19, up 1,577% from only 6,000 in 2018.
  • The majority (52%) of physicians indicated they plan to increase use of telemedicine in their practice in the next 12 months, while 4% said they plan to switch to a primarily telemedicine practice.

Additionally, in response to the pandemic, The Physicians Foundation launched America’s Health: Stories from Physicians on The Frontline, to increase understanding of physicians’ challenges in our current health care system and to create an anthology of physicians' experiences. The initiative features physicians from across the U.S. sharing their experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic and will cover a variety of topics, such as financial livelihood, physician safety and physician wellbeing. New physician stories will be added regularly, and the Foundation invites all physicians to share their story through the website.

“The Foundation’s surveys have always been the definitive word in capturing physicians’ sentiments quantitatively,” noted Dr. Price “But the addition of physician first-person stories bring the survey findings to life through the words and emotions of physicians who are leading America through this crisis, and it is something we felt The Physicians Foundation had to do to memorialize this unique time in America’s health.”

The survey was conducted by Merritt Hawkins on behalf of The Physicians Foundation. For a complete breakdown of the survey and its results, https://physiciansfoundation.org/research-insights/2020physiciansurvey/.

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About The Physicians Foundation

The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit seeking to advance the work of practicing physicians and help them facilitate the delivery of high-quality health care to patients. As the health care system in America continues to evolve, The Physicians Foundation is steadfast in its determination to strengthen the physician-patient relationship and assist physicians in sustaining their medical practices in today’s practice environment. It pursues its mission through a variety of activities including grant-making, research, white papers and policy studies. Since 2005, the Foundation has awarded numerous multi-year grants totaling more than $50 million. In addition, the Foundation focuses on the following core areas: physician leadership, physician wellness, physician practice trends, social determinants of health and the impact of health care reform on physicians and patients. For more information, visit www.physiciansfoundation.org.

About Merritt Hawkins

Merritt Hawkins is the leading physician search and consulting firm in the United States and is a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AMN). AMN Healthcare is the leader and innovator in total talent solutions to health care organizations across the nation, providing access to the most comprehensive network of quality health care professionals through its innovative recruitment strategies and breadth of career opportunities. For more information, visit www.merritthawkins.com and www.amnhealthcare.com.

Survey Methodology  

The Physicians Foundation’s 2020 Survey of America’s Physicians: COVID-19 Impact Edition -Part One of Three: COVID-19’s Impact on Physicians’ Practices and Their Patients was sent by email to a list of physicians derived from an American Medical Association/Physician Master File approved vendor, and to physicians in Merritt Hawkins’ proprietary data base. The survey was sent from July 15 to July 26, 2020. It was received by more than 500,000 physicians nationwide. Data is based on 3,513 responses, with a margin of error (MOE) of +/- 1.86%.  

 

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