97% of medical practices suffer COVID-19 financial hit: 5 observations for orthopedics

Practice Management

Ninety-seven percent of U.S. medical practices have experienced a negative financial impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Medical Group Management Association.

Five observations for the orthopedic industry:

1. On average, practice revenue has seen a 55 percent decrease since the pandemic, with patient volume down 60 percent.

Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, focusing on pediatric spine and orthopedic procedures, is estimated to be losing $250,000 to $500,000 a month due to the postponement of elective procedures.

2. A significant number of practices in the spine and orthopedic sector have been forced to lay off and furlough employees to navigate the economic challenges posed by the pandemic.

3. Many hospitals and health systems are hemorrhaging  money due to the suspension of elective surgeries, where orthopedic surgeries are among the biggest revenue generators. Hospitals in the hardest-hit COVID-19 states will have to wait until the end of the year to get a full picture of the financial damage inflicted by the pandemic, according to Leesa Galatz, MD, chair of the department of orthopedic surgery at New York City-based Mount Sinai.

"An illness like this that requires so many resources is a drain on the health system, but our focus right now is providing care and saving lives, so we'll have to worry about the finances later," Dr. Galatz told Becker's Spine Review.

4. The economic impact of the pandemic is deeply concerning for private practices, many of which do not have the same financial support as hospitals and medical groups affiliated with large health systems or hospital associations. Physicians in private practice that were already in a cost-cutting mode pre-coronavirus are concerned about having to downsize, and are relying on Small Business Association loans to survive the tough financial period. 

"A lot of people are going to draw down on their lines of credit, max their credit cards and credit scores," said Brian Gantwerker, MD, neurosurgeon and president of the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles. "I'm hoping we'll find some respite in SBA loans that may just be able to help us get back on our feet."

5. Orthopedic providers aren't specifically trained in critical care, but many have been aiding front-line healthcare workers in supporting roles in the ER. Orthopedic departments are preparing for a ramp-up period once elective surgeries resume, but strategies will need to be implemented to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

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