When the COVID-19 pandemic began to disrupt daily life in the U.S., many medical practices were left scrambling. Patient volumes plunged immediately, non-urgent care was postponed, and no one was sure exactly how long the shutdowns and mitigation precautions would last. By late April, 97% of practices reported a negative financial impact from the pandemic, including a 60% decrease in patient volume. By August, according to The Physicians Foundation’s Survey of America’s Physicians, 59% of physicians expected that many independent practices would not survive to the end of the pandemic.
Fellow providers will understand that the situation was dire. In a strictly fee-for-service model, revenues at our independent practice would have plummeted, and it is not clear that we would have lasted more than a few weeks without significant cuts. But value-based care agreements proved to be an important lifeline and allowed our practice to continue serving patients even in the midst of strict lockdowns.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, our experience shows how key features of value-based care can position practices to be more resilient, adaptable, and future-oriented, whether dealing with a short-term crisis or the long-term challenges facing independent practices.