ACP Physicians’ Financial Preparedness
COVID-19 Impacts on Internal Medicine Physicians
During the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians from all walks of life have endured intense professional stress. And many have experienced patient loss.
Among practicing internal medicine physicians, 88% reported other substantial changes in the way they practiced, how they were compensated, the number of hours they worked, and the emotional toll of practicing internal medicine during the pandemic.
Among practice owners, co-owners, and partners in group practices, physicians reported serious operational strain. This strain resulted from shortages in PPE supply, staff illness, hiring freezes (if they could even find good staff), paused expansion projects, or furloughed employees. Physicians also mentioned increased costs for cleaning supplies during the pandemic.
Key highlights for responding internal medicine practice owners:
- Sixty-two percent reported changes, including postponed hiring, change in payer mix, temporary closure, and furloughed employees.
- Fifty-seven percent received less income than usual.
- Nine percent began conversations about a merger or acquisition.
Seventy-seven percent of responding internal medicine practices participated in federal COVID-19 relief programs, including 65% who sought forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The impacts of COVID-19 differed by physician career stage in significant ways:
Early-career physicians (in practice 16 years or less) were more likely to have experienced increased hours (49%), sometimes accompanied with increased income.
Mid-career physicians (in practice 17-30 years) also experienced increased office/work hours, but 38% received less income than usual.
Advanced-career physicians (in practice 30+ years and typically over age 60) were more likely to have experienced decreased hours or temporarily closed their practice to protect themselves and their employees.
Residents and fellows handled increased hours and more exposure to the virus. Some mentioned reduced training time leading to significant gaps in training. Residents also said that some employers delayed the recruitment of additional faculty or stopped their retirement match.
Physicians as parents
Physicians with families struggled with child care arrangements and felt the stress of the increased need to be home to assist their children who were learning at home during the 2020/2021 school year. Some took a leave of absence, sold their solo practice to join a group, or left their practice entirely due to the inability to balance work and family needs during the pandemic.
Here’s what some of them had to say about what they endured amid the pandemic:
- “Decreased actual time with patients, increased documentation work.”
- “Significant increase in stormy admissions and transfers from other hospitals. Increased rapid responses and deaths.”
- “Increased stress from constant exposure to risk of acquiring COVID-19 on the job.”
- “Office hours slowed down in spring, but are back to normal now. Money wise, this was my best year in 20 years.”
The events of the past year and a half have been challenging for many physicians and their families. The American College of Physicians (ACP) is here to help its members by providing valuable resources. To help physicians forge the path to financial freedom, the ACP surveyed more than 1,900 internal medicine physicians, including 210 practice owners or partners.
Source: ACP Internal Medicine Physicians’ Financial Preparedness Survey conducted March to May 2021.