While front-line hospital workers have been working round the clock to provide care and relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, primary care physicians have been wrestling with a different kind of challenge in their outpatient practices. Starting in March, primary care physicians experienced dramatic reductions in patient volumes as patients ceased visiting their physicians during COVID shelter-in-place orders or because their patients lacked adequate accessibility to telemedicine alternatives. Although by August, most primary care practices were back to 80% of Pre-COVID patient volumes, primary care practices in the U.S. expect to lose $68,000 (or 13%) of gross revenues per doctor in 2020. An article in Physicians News Digest shares these trends and explains how larger primary care practices and payors are shifting away from historical fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement models to shared savings/shared risk value-based care models where physicians receive a fixed monthly fee per patient (covered life) and can receive bonuses/penalties established for patient outcomes and cost reductions. As primary care physicians adapt to these changes, the specialists that they refer to are also having to adapt to less patient volumes and lower patient gross revenues. These changes are shifting the healthcare delivery landscape, forcing independent physicians to rethink the way that they have practiced medicine, or consider consolidating or becoming employees of larger groups.
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