Covid-19 has revealed many American life weaknesses including the vulnerabilities of the primary care systems. In a country that has already surpassed other developed countries in access to health care, this pandemic is affecting primary care in America— now and in the future. Here is how primary care in America crumbles due to coronavirus pandemic.
Primary care visits plummet due to telehealth
According to a new report by Harvard researchers, primary care visits plummeted by nearly 50 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Their results, released by the Commonwealth Fund, reflect an extraordinary crisis: from the first week of March to the last, total emergency visits plummeted almost 60 percent. The numbers remained weak till mid-April. People have more than absolutely stopped going to eye checkups and appointments with ophthalmologists (visits are down 79 percent). Visits to dermatology (down 73%), urology (63%), and cardiology (61%) are still witnessing some of the sharpest declines. There are pediatric services, where more than 60 percent of visits are down.
Primary care physician’s offices see half as many patients as they would traditionally have, as the majority of their appointments are already made by phone or video call. Revenues are down considerably because patient visits for daily check-ups are major means of their profits.
Many independent physicians are on the verge of shutting down
Independent physician practices may soon have no choice but to close or allow insurance providers or a broader health care system to buy themselves out. The obstacle to independent practices is a matter of simple economics: they do not have the same amount of money or reserve funds to rely on as large hospitals and health care agencies do. The future of independent physicians is uncertain and maybe leaves them with options such as closures, retirement, or mergers because of the economic shock due to the pandemic.
The future of US healthcare is sure to get affected
With every closed doctor’s office or every doctor who is taken out by a bigger business, access to healthcare in the US can only get worse. America also has fewer physicians and nurses per capita compared to other rich countries. And afterward, there’s the cost dilemma. Any type of consolidation of health care, whether it be hospitals that integrate with each other or primary care and specialist practices that combine into hospital systems, has been found to push up health care costs. Many Americans are now uninsured because they lost their jobs during the coronavirus crisis, and the physician market will likely be more concentrated when the dust settles. This would push even higher medical costs, and hence insurance rates.
There is a possibility that primary care in America will likely crumble under the strain due to all the above problems. There is going to be a future where it will be hard for Americans to access and afford healthcare. This could be prevented if the US makes structured and needed policies to manage the loss.