The COVID-19 pandemic is going to have long-term impacts on family medicine in Puyallup and Bonney Lake and beyond. Our CEO Therese Pasquier was featured this week on a KIRO-TV news story that focused on the challenges the pandemic has posed to clinics like Sound Family Medicine and how our patients are being affected.
People are afraid to come in for needed care
“I think patients are really scared about coming in,” Pasquier said. “We have seen a dramatic drop in patient visits since COVID-19 hit”. The story also speculated that some people are staying away to comply with the Stay At Home order or worry that doctors are too busy caring for those with COVID-19 to see to their everyday health concerns.
Long term impacts to community care
Sound has seen a 47% drop in patient visits since the stay at home order was issued. “Smaller clinics cannot survive situations like this, and we’re afraid a lot of smaller practices are going to go out of business,” Pasquier said, “which is going to hurt the community even more.”
Part of the challenge to smaller clinics is the way health insurance companies compensate doctors, a system known as fee-for-service. Doctors don’t get paid for service unless the doctor sees you in person, limiting care choices for doctors and patients. When a crisis like a pandemic occurs, it further challenges an already strained system.
David Chase of Health Rosetta, a national advocate for changing how insurance is delivered, said “clinics being forced to close makes the problem even worse.” It means fewer doctors in each community, which could further delay care times and force some people to go to the emergency room for care, increasing their costs.
We anticipate a rush on visits when the Stay At Home order is lifted
“We know that diabetes and hypertension didn’t suddenly get cured because we have COVID” according to Chase. “People with chronic health conditions will eventually have to be seen.”
“This is a dire situation. You’re going to have a community that has such a pent-up demand for care all trying to get in at once,” Pasquier said, “and when you have to delay care, that’s only going to worsen your condition.”
Healthcare is an essential service
It’s more important than ever to take care of your health. We have strict protocols in place to protect patients and clinic staff, ensuring you can have a safe and thorough visit in-office with your provider. We are also able to offer video visits, telephone visits and car-side appointments.
Drops in patient visits mean changes to business operations
At the time of the story, Sound Family Medicine had announced necessary furloughs to 25% of staff. Two of our 10th St. clinic team members, ARNP Ericka Gilson and medical assistant Destiny Kealoha spoke briefly about the impact of furloughs on themselves and their team. Since the story ran, our group was awarded a federal Paycheck Protection Loan, which allowed us to bring back our entire staff. “I am hopeful that this situation is opening everybody’s eyes to the what’s happening here. Clinics like ours won’t survive this next time.” Pasquier said.
Therese Pasquier, Sound Family Medicine’s CEO is a Puyallup resident with more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry.