Many people don’t know that half of the primary care practices in America are small businesses, which means that in the wake of COVID-19, they are battling the virus on the frontlines even as they are on the verge of going out of business. Despite a surge in telehealth use, primary care visits declined 21.4% during the second quarter of 2020 compared to visits in 2018 and 2019, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. Most of these practices and much of the American healthcare system rely on in-person visits for revenue. Unfortunately, with fewer in-person visits comes fewer physician’s referrals for imaging.
COVID-19 rates are especially high in more rural parts of the country which also happen to be areas that are among the most poverty-stricken. With more PCP closures, physicians that are likely inexperienced with telehealth services will find switching to a telehealth system for safety to be essential for keeping practices open. However, patients who reside in these parts are often faced with poverty, poor education levels, and lack of wifi.
Dr. Karen Kinsell, M.D. of Georgia states “Most [of my] patients do not have ready access to a screen, a signal, and the technical knowhow to use it”.
During this state of emergency, insurers are generally paying doctors for telemedicine visits but Medicare is currently reimbursing visits done this way at roughly half of the fee of in-person visits. For those without pre-existing access to screens, this does little to help with providing the same level of quality of an in-person visit; “Our state’s Medicaid has already allowed us to be reimbursed for using the best technology that is available, which is usually the telephone” says Dr. Kinsell.
Barriers to Scheduling
John Simon, MD, founder and CEO of SimonMed Imaging, a company that operates outpatient medical imaging providers and physician radiology practices in rural areas, says radiology is underserved in rural America and people often lack access to basic health care services; specialized care such as radiology is almost nonexistent.
“Rural populations experience lower access to health care due to affordability, proximity, and quality, compared with their urban counterparts,” Simon says. “In rural areas, scheduling screenings of any kind requires the patient to arrange appointments, travel, and likely request time off work.”
Barriers to health care result in unmet health care needs, including a lack of preventive and screening services and treatment of illnesses. For example, 80% of the women who should have an annual mammography exam won’t because they are unable to find a mammography facility that is conveniently located, according to Simon.
Another problem is that many patients often don’t have reliable transportation to get to a hospital, which could be as far as 40 minutes away. And, even if they are able to get there, the hospitals have so much volume that it may be a two- to three-week wait for the patient to receive imaging; a lot can happen in two to three weeks if someone is in a precarious health situation.
Without primary care physicians to guide patients through the process of getting medical imaging, more and more patients are finding themselves relying on emergency departments (ED) for diagnostics that would traditionally be carried out by their primary care provider. EDs can become a de facto source of primary care for underserved areas; this can have a dramatic impact on a hospital’s ability to perform the duties that it was intended to perform. As hospitals are currently overwhelmed with the fight against COVID-19, many patients find discomfort in putting themselves in that situation, as well as using finite hospital resources.
How Medmo Helps
Medmo works to simplify the imaging process for doctors, patients, and centers during COVID-19. By partnering with accredited imaging offsite centers across the country, we ensure patients get high-quality care that’s convenient to them and costs less than hospitals. For Ordering Physicians, we take the lead on booking appointments and ensuring patient follow-through, allowing your team to spend more time on delivering care. Our platform handles prior authorizations and coordinates directly with patients, including follow-ups. There are no technical integrations or staff overhead required which makes Medmo simple to use.
Medmo quickly matches patients with high-quality imaging sites of their preferred distance and helps patients with scheduling every step of the way. We accept all major insurance networks and provide exclusive cash-pay deals for patients without insurance or who are underinsured.
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.