New Data Shows Panic Among Primary Care Patients As Practices Face Mounting Financial Burdens

RICHMOND, Va., May 27, 2020 - New data released today by the Larry Green Center, in collaboration with 3rd Conversation and the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC), shows Americans report feeling 'panicked, upset, or heartbroken' at the prospect of losing their primary care clinician, with 75 percent of respondents reporting a strong, established relationship with their doctor.  



This data, which analyzes the attitudes of more than 2,250 primary care patients nationwide, sheds a light on patient fears as primary care practices are at high risk of closure. As reported by the Larry Green Center and PCC in May 2020, more than 40 percent of primary care practices have made staff layoffs over the last eight weeks, and more than half are uncertain about their financial future one month from now.   Simultaneously practices are being pushed to the financial brink as demand from patients has increased. The survey showed nearly half of patients have been in contact with their primary care practice over the last eight weeks, with 1.6 touch-points per patient, a majority happening over telephone or telemedicine. Despite this activity, practices are facing major financial losses due to longstanding policies that favor in person care. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has put our chronic underinvestment in primary-care on full display," said Dr. Rebecca Etz, PhD, co-director of The Larry Green Center and associate professor of Family Medicine and Population Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Without immediate financial support we are looking at a matter of weeks, not months, that patient's fears about primary care will turn into reality."

  "By any traditional business metrics, thousands of primary care practices should be closing their doors right now – but they stay open for us, their patients," said Christine Bechtel, patient advocate and co-founder of 3rd Conversation. "The fact that, in the middle of a pandemic, our health professionals are struggling to keep their doors open is not just a frightening prospect, it is unacceptable. Lawmakers must act to provide immediate relief targeted to primary care practices," she said. 

In spite of ongoing concern for the future of primary care, both patients and clinicians have a greater fear: re-opening the country before it's too soon. As several states begin opening their economies, nearly 80 percent of patients and 90 percent of clinicians report they feel it is too soon – underscoring mounting concern of a potential second wave of COVID-19 if social distancing measures are relaxed.  

"At a time when distrust of institutions is at an all-time high, 70% of patients report feeling secure in their trust of primary care," said Ann Greiner, president and CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative. "Primary care is central to helping patients navigate this crisis right now.  It will be essential in the months ahead as states begin to re-open and Americans turn to trusted sources to help them transition back to work and school." 

The survey was conducted online and was open to people 18 or older. The survey results reflect input from 2,250 respondents from a range of education levels (34% high school degree; 47% college degree; 14% graduate degree); income levels (44% less than $50,000 household income; 8% greater than $150,000 household income); and geographies (30% urban and 21% rural). One-third were 18-35 years old; one-third were over 50. Level of health varied, with 36% rating their health as very good and 30% saying good. 46% were male, 52% female; 43% were employed full-time, and 19% were employed part-time. 21% lost employment during the pandemic. 

For more information about the survey, visit the Larry Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative.

About The Green Center:  The Larry A. Green Center for the Advancement of Primary Health Care for the Public Good is a thought collective founded by Rebecca Etz, PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University and Kurt Stange, MD, PhD at Case Western Reserve University. The Green Center works to reclaim and reconstitute the intellectual foundations of primary care, to advance the science of medicine learned and practiced within layered and competing social frameworks of meaning, and to deliver on a now 50 year old promise: better health and improved health care through a synergistic focus on both humanism and healing. We are nimble, inquisitive, curious, and open. We make personal doctoring and innovation visible.  

About PCC:  Founded in 2006, Primary Care Collaborative (PCC), formerly known as Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, is a nonprofit multi-stakeholder membership organization dedicated to advancing an effective and efficient health system built on a strong foundation of primary care and the patient-centered medical home. Representing a broad group of public and private organizations, PCC's mission is to unify and engage diverse stakeholders in promoting policies and sharing best practices that support growth of high-performing primary care and achieve the "Quadruple Aim": better care, better health, lower costs, and greater joy for clinicians and staff in delivery of care.  

About 3rd Conversation: 3rd Conversation is a national initiative reimagining the future of health care by reinventing the provider-patient relationship for the modern era. Powered by X4 Health, 3rd Conversation works at both the local and national levels to address health professional burnout, improve patient experience and realize the promise of humanity and connection in our health care system. Funding support is provided by the Morris-Singer Foundation.  

Media Contacts: Stephen Padre, spadre@pcpcc.org, 202-360-6971 Maureen Abel, mabel@brgcommunications.com, 443-631-5090

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