As Doctors’ Offices Ease COVID-19 Restrictions in the US, Elective Procedures Are Surging, According to US Non-Frontline Treating Specialists in Latest InCrowd Report

80% of US physicians in 6 specialties say their practice is already performing elective procedures or will soon begin, yet only 40% feel prepared for second wave as they reopen with caution

WATERTOWN, MA July 2, 2020—As US states lift COVID-19 restrictions, four out of five non-frontline treating specialist physicians in the US report that their practices either had already begun performing elective procedures as of June 12-13, 2020, or that they expect their practices to begin performing elective procedures within the next 30 days. Only 5% of these US specialists say their practices plan to hold off until Labor Day or later before resuming elective procedures. Yet only 40% say that their facilities are prepared for a second wave or any local outbreaks caused by the states re-opening.

These are findings from the InCrowd Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Non-Frontline Treating Physician Tracking Report—Wave 2, a snapshot of US physician sentiments from oncologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and dermatologists conducted and sourced by InCrowd, the pioneer for real-time, high-quality primary market intelligence for the life science industry.

“US physicians are reinventing the provider office of the future and adapting in real-time to a new patient journey and experience, as they search for a new equilibrium amid divergent demands,” said Daniel S. Fitzgerald, CEO and president of InCrowd. “Our new specialists report suggests the doctors have made great strides in balancing strategies for restoring patient volumes against painstaking efforts to help patients feel safe and comfortable enough to visit the provider’s facility again. We’ll continue to monitor physician feedback as a vital element in establishing a new normal.”

With recent spikes in COVID-19 cases forcing curtailment to elective procedures in some hard-hit communities, InCrowd’s new findings document significant care delivery progress along with lingering perceived issues in governmental preparedness.

  • Fifty-four percent reported that their facilities are currently strongly prepared to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • Physician concerns over personal/familial safety and markers of mental health have all improved significantly since April, with concerns over safety dropping by over 20 percentage points, to 48% of respondents, down from 71% in April. Concerns related to job security reducing by over a third, to 13% of respondents, down from 22% in April.
  • The number of specialists experiencing frequent patient cancellations for routine appointments has dropped by nearly half of what was reported in April, to just 37% in June, from 73% in April. Fewer physicians (13%) noted difficulty in prescribing medications for patients, compared to 20% in April.
  • Ninety-one percent use virtual visits or telehealth today, and more than a third said they plan on using telehealth for routine appointments moving forward (37%). Nearly 30% plan to use it for preparatory appointments for upcoming surgeries and 26% will use telehealth for screening patients for urgent visits. However, only 46% said their increased use of telehealth is likely to continue after the crisis is over, down slightly from 52% in April.
  • A third of specialists (32%) write-in that in order to make patients feel safe, their facilities require a negative COVID-19 test before admitting anyone. More than two-thirds report they are planning to continue practicing better hygiene (80%), limit physical contact such as handshakes (75%), require social distancing (72%), and screen patients before visits (66%).
  • In verbatim remarks physicians emphasized rigorous sanitization and other changed office practices they share with patients to keep them safe—from “advising [patients] of the number of patients at the height of COVID in hospital and [the] number now,” to “asking patients to comply with pre-procedural [COVID-19] testing.” 
  • Overall, non-frontline physicians do not find that the US is taking sufficient precautions, with approval of the federal government’s management of the pandemic at 18%, nearly half that of international governments. Only one-in-five believes the US has the ability to flatten the curve. Respondents were more bullish on their state government (37%) and local government preparedness (34%).
  • Meetings with pharma sales reps will be limited or deferred, despite 18% of respondents saying that COVID-19 has made it more difficult to become aware of medications that could help their patients. Only 22% envision booking telehealth-style virtual meetings with pharma reps, with 31% expecting to wait until 2021 before allowing in-person meetings.
  • On average, non-frontline physicians estimate that things will not return to normal for another nine months—not until March of next year. One third cite that disruptions will continue until a vaccine is developed and disseminated.

InCrowd’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Non-Frontline Treating Physician Tracking Report—Wave 2, included the perceptions of n=201 US physicians, including 103 practicing in offices, and 98 practicing in hospitals. Total respondents included oncologists (n=40), neurologists (n=33), rheumatologists (n=33), gastroenterologists (n=33), cardiologists (n=33), and dermatologists (n=29). The 7-minute MicroSurvey for Wave 2 fielded June 12-13, 2020. For more information download the full Wave 2 report.