When you visit your doctor, you rely on a few factors (staff, finances and open hours) that enable your medical care. But since COVID-19 hit, doctors have felt plenty of behind-the-scenes disruptions. When those enabling factors suffer, what happens to your medical care in NC?
COVID-19 Has Hurt NC Doctors and Practices
We’ve covered how North Carolina physicians have lost money and staff in the pandemic, and more recently, a finance-recovery entrepreneur explained doctors’ dire situation. But we haven’t always known the bits-and-bobs of how badly COVID-19 impacted doctors in our state. A recent report shows 16 weeks of financial losses in clearer detail.
The North Carolina Medical Society partnered with Curi and the Medical Group Management Association to release the “Sixteen Week Summary Report,” which visualizes survey responses from 2,404 doctors across our state. Before we get into what these doctors said, let’s review who the surveyed doctors are.
All these doctors replied to the survey between March 30 and July 20, and 82% of them have independent medical practices. The large majority of these clinics (86%) have 10 staff members or fewer, and they represent 80% of North Carolina counties. In short, this 16-week summary drew from small, independent practices giving medical care across North Carolina. What worries these responding doctors the most?
NC Doctors Worry About Patients, Finances and PPE
These three concerns topped the list from the report. Let’s explain them in detail.
Doctors saw a decrease in their amounts of patients.
In July 2020, about 50% of doctors reported they didn’t see one-fourth to one-half of their patients. But in that same period, more than 80% of the medical practices had already opened and planned to stay that way.
Medical clinics had also experienced some (decreasing) financial concerns.
Their financial concerns grow out of decreased patients receiving care. We can also track their financial worries through their reported lay-offs and furloughs (though those amounts decreased over time). Good news: by July 2020, about 80% of the doctors reported laying off none of their staff members.
NC doctors worried about protective gear for COVID-19.
This third concern matched the growing number of patients seen — using PPE (personal protective equipment) each day would mean having less over time. But by July, NC doctors didn’t report huge shortages. When asked how many days of gear they had left, 40% replied they had 20 or more days of gear (just less than 30% said they had 16 to 20 days).
What These Worries Mean to Your Medical Care from NC Doctors
For one thing, these main doctors’ concerns have improved since the survey. Even towards the end of those sixteen weeks, their worries were lessening. Still, you might need to keep a few expectations in mind.
Fewer medical clinics might still practice near you.
Those medical concerns which doctors expressed could’ve translated to closures. A report from August noted that 8% of doctors in our state had closed their practices because of COVID-19. Though their financial outlooks might’ve improved since then, some doctors around the state may have lost their clinics. All those doctors’s losses (especially the 10% who reported their reduced hours) could decrease your medical care options.
But your medical care could become streamlined.
We’ve already mentioned that fewer patients have come to clinics for in-person medical care. If you decide to come in person, your wait for an appointment or in the clinic’s lobby could shorten.
However, you’ll probably receive improved telehealth options if you don’t want to visit the clinic. NC doctors had reported throughout the spring that their staff was learning the technology to better care for patients. By July, more than half of doctors said their staff didn’t need assistance with telehealth. Whether you’d like to have an e-visit, videoconference or phone call with your doctor, you likely can.