- In what appears to be a break from the sadness that doctors have felt over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, independent medical practices “feel stronger, more resistant and positive on the future of his practice and the industry, “according to a new Kareo survey.
- This feeling of optimism came despite the fact that 11% of independent medical offices said they had temporarily closed during the pandemic. And 60% of those practices were closed for five weeks or more. The data is in line with other research suggesting that medical practices have recovered.
- Despite enormous pressure on independent practices, the rise in telehealth services not only helped stabilize them in the second half of last year, but also apparently promises a foundation for more stable long-term businesses.
Medical practices took a major financial hit during the first part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have proven remarkably resilient. According to the Kareo survey, which consulted more than 1,300 practices in more than 50 medical specialties, 75% of them expect to experience growth in 2021. Only 6% expected their volumes or business to decline this year, compared to 14% in 2019.
Kareo’s data suggests that medical practices stabilized significantly during the second half of last year. While 49% of practices said they saw a decrease in patients in 2020, 51% said they reported an increase.
The rapid move towards the provision of telehealth services appears to have been a major boost. At some point in the past year, 43% say they only offered telehealth services. Today, 36% of practices say that at least half of their encounters with patients are now telehealth-based, including 27% who say that at least three-quarters of their visits are virtual. And 80% of practices say they now offer telehealth services on an ongoing basis.
Overall, 43% of practices say telehealth services are important in terms of providing patient care. While that number is relatively low, it was only 21% in 2019.
“In the last two years, healthcare has seen a great integration of technology across the field. With the pandemic accelerating its evolution, telehealth has allowed medical professionals in smaller practices to spend more time with their patients.” the report said.
Meanwhile, changes brought on by the pandemic and telehealth are also making independent practices less likely to seek a buyer or merger partner: only 5% of respondents said they had expectations of merging with a hospital or healthcare system. health, compared to 15% in 2019. And only 6% said they expected to merge with another practice, compared to 16% in 2019.