COVID-19's impact on primary care and outpatient clinics

Posted at 12:42 AM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 08:23:03-04

IDAHO — "100 percent of primary care practices were negatively impacted by coronavirus with a significant drop in revenue," said CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, Dr. David Peterman.

In the early stages of COVID-19, his clinics saw about a 70 percent decrease in revenue.

“There was a 70 percent drop in the visit rate to our clinics," Dr. Peterman said. "Very quickly the telehealth visits increased so that 30 to 40 percent of the visits we had at Primary Health were telehealth visits.”

But, that wasn't the only thing that negatively impacted their clinics.

“Our expenses went way up because we had to purchase all the PPE," he said. "There was a shortage of hand sanitizer, desk wipes and gloves and suddenly those prices went up.”

Their doctors and operation staff spent 12 hour days redesigning every aspect of how they saw patients.

“Answering the phone, making appointments, bringing the patient back to see the doctor, the interaction of the nurse with the patient, the room configuration, there isn’t any process that hasn’t been impacted by coronavirus,” Dr. Peterman said.

This included separating their clinics into what they call "Respiratory Clinics" and "Clean Clinics."

“Those patients that needed regular wellness check visits are at quote our clean clinic, and those visits where someone has coronavirus symptoms that were quote illness-related, they are directed towards our respiratory clinic,” he said.

Since establishing the "Clean Clinics," he says Primary Health's appointment size is back to normal.

“Once we were able to say to our patients and staff we can see you safely in the sense of the clean environment then our patients began to come back,” Dr. Peterman said.

But, as COVID-19 is continuing to change and as we learn more about, he said that they have to keep redesigning the process in which they operate in order to keep everyone safe.