Could Coronavirus put your doctor out of business? Some in Texas cut pay, staff

By Luke Ranker

Originally published by Star-Telegram.

North Texas hospitals are readying themselves for a potential surge in novel coronavirus patients expected by June, but private practice physicians and specialists are facing a different challenge — a steep drop in patients and a decline in revenue that may force them to make hard decisions.

Fort Worth area doctors say they’re seeing as little as half as many patients as they did before the coronavirus, but Dr. David Fleeger, president of the Texas Medical Association, said the decline could be as high as 80% for some doctors. Fear of catching the virus has kept patients from visiting their primary care physician, and local and state mandates have shuttered many specialized practices.

Across the country as many as 60,000 family practices will close or reduce business by June, according to a HealthLandscape and American Academy of Family Physicians report. That would leave roughly 800,000 of their employees without work or on reduced hours and create doctor shortages in at least 750 counties. Tarrant County wouldn’t face a shortage, according to the report, but Parker and Johnson counties would.

That’s bad news for patients, said Fleeger, as the loss of private practice doctors now jeopardizes care in the long term.

“The question will become access,” he said. “Private practice doctors spread care out over a larger geography.”

While most health care workers may be able to find jobs with large hospital networks, that care is centered in major metros, typically at hospital hubs. Rural and suburban patients may find it hard to get to the doctor. About 10% of Texas doctors work for a hospital while 34% are self-employed, according to a recent Texas Medical Association survey.

While the Texas Medical Association didn’t have hard numbers, Fleeger said he’s heard from dozens of practices that have furloughed or laid off staff, including nurses and medical assistants. He suspected there were “thousands” of unemployed health care workers in Texas.

“It’s safe to say most practices in Texas are in the red right now,” Fleeger said. “There are practices whose viability is definitely in question if this continues.”

FORT WORTH PHYSICIANS

Independent doctors in the Fort Worth area, like restaurant owners, are trying to pluck along without reducing staff.

Dr. Greg Phillips, who has an office in Fort Worth’s medical district and sees patients at two hospitals, would typically have around 25 patients a day in person before coronavirus. Now he sees less than 20, with many patient contacts done via a phone call or video chat.

With the drop in patients, Phillips has seen a decline in revenue, placing the possibility of furloughs or layoffs in the back of his mind. His office has six full-time employees between the office and medical staff.

Click here to read the rest of the story and find out how more local physicians are being impacted by COVID-19.

Physicians Use Telemedicine to Continue Patient Care in the Midst of Pandemic

Fear of coronavirus have caused a significant reduction in healthcare visits and both physicians and their patients are feeling the impact. Melanie Lagomichos, DO, shows Star-Telegram that one way to combat this is through the use of telemedicine.

Fort Worth area doctors urge those in need to seek medical treatment despite pandemic

By Stefan Stevenson

Originally published in the Star-Telegram on April 7, 2020

Everyday medical issues haven’t stopped since the coronavirus began sweeping through our country.

Important medical needs for millions of chronic and non-chronic patients require the care of a doctor despite the prevalence of stay-at-home orders and social-distancing guidelines. The restrictions have made many patients in need hesitant to seek the necessary treatment.

Doctors at the Tarrant County Medical Society recommend calling your doctor. In many cases, treatment can be determined over the phone or through a video chat.

“By now, most physicians offer a Telehealth option for patients,” Omar Selod, a local doctor of osteopathic medicine, said in a news release. “Physicians can reach out to patients and conduct new evaluations or follow up visits by connecting through a smart phone, iPad, laptop, or desktop.”

Those with severe pain, of course, should either visit the emergency room or visit their doctor in person, TCMS says.

“We can hopefully address and resolve a problem and prevent patients from going to the emergency rooms, subsequently helping relieve stress on our local hospitals,” Selod said.

Most health care providers and doctor’s offices are equipped to handle video appointments. Even new patients seeking a new doctor are able to make their initial visit via video appointment.

Read the rest of the story here.

Task force of doctors being built in Fort Worth to help with possible coronavirus surge

by Nichole Manna

Originally published in the Star-Telegram.

A task force of physicians who can help during a possible surge of COVID-19 patients is being created by the Tarrant County Medical Society

The task force will help care for patients who need to see a doctor for reasons other than COVID-19

“As COVID-19 continues to spread, we anticipate a surge in new patients, particularly those who may have cold or flu symptoms but are not critical,” a notice from the society said. “We are creating this Task Force of physicians to be ready for deployment in the event of this surge. Contact us if you are interested in volunteering to assist with triage and low acuity ‘walking well’ patients at our local hospitals.”

Brian Swift, chief executive officer of the Tarrant County Medical Society, said this ask will be used to start building a list of both practicing physicians, and retired physicians.

Read the full article here.


Fort Worth-area hospitals prepared for coronavirus ‘worst-case scenario,’ leader says

by Nichole Manna

Originally published in the Star-Telegram.

The leader of the Tarrant County Medical Society said he believes county health care professionals are prepared for a possible surge of COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, he’s been struck by the amount of specialty and retired physicians who have told him they want to help people who become infected with the novel coronavirus.

The spike of patients could hit Texas around May 5, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Brian Swift, the society’s chief executive officer, said on Tuesday that he participates in two phone calls a day with professionals from across the state about their response to COVID-19 and the issues facing doctors. Based on those calls, Swift said he thinks Tarrant County is prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“I feel very good just talking with some of the medical directors,” he said. “I do feel optimistic that we know what to do. It is just a matter of execution on a lot of these things.”

Click here to read the entire article.