While five key factors improve, estimates on pandemic’s continued impact more than doubled;
20% say their mental health has suffered; only 34% will take an on-site pharma rep meeting before 2021
WATERTOWN MA June 15, 2020—The novel coronavirus (COVID-19)’s impact on the US will last more than twice as long as previously estimated by frontline physicians in April, who are now anticipating August 2021 before a return to normalcy. Despite substantially increased levels of system preparedness, fewer frontline physicians—24%, down from 30% in April—believe that the US can ‘flatten the curve’. Data are from the fifth report on US frontline COVID-19 treating physicians conducted and sourced by InCrowd, the pioneer for real-time, high-quality primary market intelligence for the life science industry.
“Physicians’ new, 14-month expectation for a return to normal in the US is similar to what we recently observed with our high-need patient data,” said Daniel S. Fitzgerald, CEO and president of InCrowd. “There seems to be an acceptance of a new normal—at least until there’s a vaccine. Unfortunately, we’re also seeing the toll this is taking on those on the frontlines, with 20% reporting that their mental health has seriously suffered and 35% still concerned over job security due to COVID-19. We’ll continue to monitor this strain on treating physicians.”
Five important parameters of healthcare system capacity showed significant or substantial improvement in InCrowd’s latest Wave 5 frontline treaters data:
- Testing kit access—At 91%, May’s reported access to testing was the highest since InCrowd’s COVID tracking began, with 8% of respondents writing in that their facilities are providing universal testing.
- COVID-19 caseloads—The reported percentage of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients has dropped to 13% in May from 21% in April, with the average number of per physician cases down to 16 from 23 respectively.
- Physician stressors—Some aspects of physician life are improving, with personal and family safety concerns each dropping over 20 percentage points since April. While 64% of physicians do not anticipate further job cuts or furloughs in the next 90 days, 63% reported job cuts or furloughs have already occurred.
- Improved outcomes—with 43% of physicians noting that their facilities have gotten better at treating COVID-19, and that mortality rates within their COVID-19 units declined. Patient concerns also have decreased significantly, with only half now cancelling routine appointments—down from 73% in April—and half of patients using telehealth visits.
- Facility preparedness—jumping significantlyacross nearly all markers of preparedness since April, including staffing and supplies. Over half of physician respondents now reported that their facilities are equipped for a second wave of COVID-19.
At the same time, only 19% of frontline COVID-19 treating physicians believe that the US is taking appropriate action, less than half that for governments outside of the US (44%). Nearly a quarter of respondents reported an uptick in cases since restrictions have eased in the past few weeks. Two-thirds believed that when re-opening occurs, everyone will need to continue with universal precautions, including improved hygiene and limits on facility capacity, until there is a vaccine.
Respondents also envisioned change to other standard office practices. Just 36% said they’d consider virtual meetings with pharma sales reps within the next 30 days. Just one-in-three (34%) would be willing to take a meeting in-person before 2021.
InCrowd’s Wave 5 also detailed new treatment strategies, concern on testing accuracy, and the personal toll that continued COVID-19 care exacts.
- Thirty-two percent wrote-in that using strategies to improve breathing and blood oxygen levels (i.e. avoiding or prolonging ventilation, or putting a patient in the prone position), have improved patient outcomes.
- Prescribing of Remdesivir jumped to 32% after gaining approval in early May. Antibiotics and hydroxychloroquine prescribing have both dropped significantly since April.
- Although respondents are split on the accuracy of both viral and antibody tests, the largest proportion find that tests are around 50%-75% accurate in their experience.
- Many physicians wrote-in that they frequently see patients test negative who have no other reasonable explanations for their symptoms other than COVID-19, or that they sometimes must test a patient repeatedly before getting a positive result.
- Verbatim remarks showed the personal cost that many frontline treaters have paid.
- “I have lived apart from my family for 5 months with the exception of coming home just a few times. I have not kissed my kids or husband in these months.” —ER and Critical Care Physician
- “My daughter is immunosuppressed so we sent her to live with a host family so she would not be exposed if I came down with it from a patient at work, which I did. It was heartbreaking to be separated, but that decision probably saved her life.” —Primary Care Physician
InCrowd’s Wave 5 COVID-19 frontline treating physicians’ report included the perceptions of n=204 US physicians including emergency medicine and critical care specialists (n=82), primary care physicians (n=62), and pediatricians (n=60), each of whom is treating 20 or more unique patients for flu-like symptoms. The 10-minute MicroSurvey for Wave 5 fielded May 29-31, 2020. For more information download the full Wave 5 report.