Surviving in the time of COVID-19: 4 Tips for Independent Physician Practices

The Impact of COVID-19

The long arms of the COVID-19 have jeopardized both lives and livelihoods. Surgeries have been unilaterally cancelled, and patients told to stay home, meaning revenues for independent practices have dropped like a plumb line. Yet owners of private practices still have to make payroll and cover their rent and other fixed costs. (I at have seen physician practices patients volumes drop off 70-90% since the pandemic hit!)

So what can you do? Solutions for survival vary from practice to practice, and depend on many variables including size, specialty, and location, as well as the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. And although a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist, here are four ways to help practices survive the pandemic.

Practice telemedicine

If you haven't already started offering telehealth appointments to your patients, start. Payers are now covering these appointments, and the government has waived HIPAA requirements at this time. You'll want to ask the insurers you're contracted with for any requirements (such as whether they will only reimburse for visits with existing patients).

One medical consultant told me she'd set up 12 practices last week with telemedicine services. An independent doctor who owns a telemedicine company said business had grown 1000 percent since January. Starting isn't that hard. Many doctors are simply conducting virtual visits over Skype, Facetime and Zoom, as if they were walking in a patient room. Ultimately, however, you'll want a longer-term telemedicine solution that offers a safe, HIPAA compliant connection.

Seek government relief

The CARES Act, or Senate Bill 3548, which the House passed last week provides businesses that have fewer than 500 employees the option to apply for small business interruption loans to cover their obligations. Loans are available to cover such expenses as payroll, employee benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities and debt

obligations during a limited period while we weather this crisis. Small businesses, including independent practices, may be eligible to have these loans forgiven under the "cancelled indebtedness" portion of the legislation. Please seek the advice of your CPA or banker quickly to see of you qualify and apply.

Lean on your advisors

As an advocacy organization AID works to further our mission to support independent doctors by fighting for price transparency and price parity, and by fighting against health-care consolidation. We leave the job of running, managing and financing practices to your administrators and advisors. Look to them as well as to your specialty medical societies for further guidance as we weather this unprecedented time, these uncharted waters, together.

Rest up

After the COVID-19 cloud has passed, expect to be busy. Once officials lift bans on surgeries, medical services and visits, unleashed demand will help practices snap back. Meanwhile, stay well.

By: Association of Independent Doctors

Note from Reed: If have not become a member of AID, you need to. This is a support for all independent medical practices.

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