Skip to main content

The “new normal” for independent primary care practices

iStock 1149507758 1

What’s the “new normal” for independent primary care practices three months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic? We see many of our Elation practices have rebounded, in spite of severe impact early and limited financial aid. Telemedicine has been a major help.

Fee-for-service primary care practice’s in particular are more likely to have returned to pre-COVID levels of overall patient visit volume (in-person and virtual combined). It’s great news that patients are receiving care from critical front-line primary care right now.

This recovery is largely due to swift adoption (and parity reimbursement for) telehealth. We see strong correlation in our data with practices that adopted telehealth being almost 3x more likely to be back at pre-COVID visit volumes.

We’ve been most worried about our smallest 1-2 doc practices that were hit the hardest initially. Visit volumes for this cohort have been climbing since late April with steady week-over-week progress, and are nearing pre-COVID levels.

Daily active logins for our physicians still haven’t declined throughout the pandemic. Logins for staff are continuing to recover, just a couple % below February levels.

Interestingly, our direct primary care (DPC) practices are still at 68% of their pre-COVID visit volume while more FFS have rebounded. Perhaps more use of non-visit care with the membership model. DPC leaders: tell us more about this split from your perspective?

Looking outside our network: only about a third (38%) of practices reported receiving Federal financial aid, despite 74% of practices saying they’re operating under serious stress according to the latest nationwide survey from our friends over at PCPCC and Green Center. 

Unexpectedly, we’ve seen a spike in practices looking for EHR replacement during this pandemic. Maybe this was a breaking point for some practices not wanting to face the next wave with the same tech partners?

While far from easy, our independent primary care practices have shown over the past 12 weeks that they are highly agile and adaptive, able to adopt new workflows quickly in order to continue delivering care to their communities.