As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccinations become available to more Americans, “Primary care is now a key means for getting shots in Americans’ arms, just as practices are facing pent-up patient demand for care and worsening mental health and social vulnerabilities,” said Ann Greiner, president and CEO of Primary Care Collaborative (PCC), in a recent press release on the latest PCC national survey of primary care physicians.
The PCC has been tracking primary care sentiment since the start of the pandemic, and over 650 primary care clinicians responded to the latest survey, conducted between April 9 and April 13, 2021. The survey reveals that while primary care physicians are keeping up with the influx of vaccinations, they also face worsening mental health, vacant clinician job openings, inadequate vaccine supplies, and more. In the slides below, find more survey results at-a-glance.
Primary care physicians administering more COVID-19 vaccines:
• 38% of respondents said their practice is administering COVID-19 vaccines, a marked increase from previous weeks.
• 46% have partnered with local organizations or government to prioritize people for vaccination.
PCPs administering more vaccines, but challenges remain:
• 19% of respondents said their practice has received adequate amounts of vaccines for their patients.
• Others noted the challenge of information exchange and patient outreach, with 23% saying "I have no idea if my patients are vaccinated or not" and over 42% said that it seems like "it takes an advanced degree in technology for patients to schedule vaccinations.”
Primary care continues to perform despite setbacks:
• 60% of clinicians reported current monitoring of patients at home.
• 91% reported conducting routine chronic care visits, up from 30% this time last year.
• Over 200% increase in health screening activities since May 2020 (eg, substance use, violence/abuse, PTSD/depression, rising well child visits/immunizations).
Primary care continues to perform beyond its resourcing, but:
• 27% of respondents said they have clinician positions they cannot fill.
• 29% have had clinicians/staff out due to illness or quarantine.
• 39% have seen COVID-19 cases increase in their community.
• 12% report pandemic-offered relief from loans and documentation is now rolling back.
Another challenge PCPs face: Their own mental health:
• 7 in 10 primary care clinics report that mental exhaustion, both personally and in their practice, has reached all-time highs.
•Approximately 2 in 5 have required mental health support as result of pandemic.
• 38% said they field weekly calls from colleagues or patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
Physicians recalibrate the meaning of exhaustion and strain:
• 40% of respondents report that stress is the same or worse during pandemic, but “sadly, we’ve gotten used to it.”
• 62% rate their stress level a ≤3 on a scale of 1 (no impact) to 5 (severe).
Physicians recalibrate the meaning of exhaustion and strain, yet physician burnout and mental exhaustion has reached new heights:
• 71% of respondents said their level of burnout or mental exhaustion has reached all-time highs during the pandemic.
• 40% note practice levels of burnout have also reached all-time highs.
Burnout and mental exhaustion (cont.): Since May 2020:
• 40% of physicians said pandemic-specific practice strain is the same as last May, and
• 23% report the strain is worse, yet
• 85% reported severe/near severe strain last May compared to 38% currently.
To meet population health needs, the majority (76%) of practices report new pandemic-era partnerships with at least 1 of the following 10 organization types:
• Public health (42%)
• Local health systems (34%)
• Mental/behavioral services (34%)
• Patients (29%)
• Community organizations (28%)
• Local pharmacies (19%)
• Food pantries/banks (18%)
• Other area practices (14%)
• Housing support (11%)