HARTFORD, Conn., Sept. 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care announced today that 120 Connecticut independent primary care practices will each receive $10,000 to assist with providing safe access to care for patients including the purchasing of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), reconfiguring facilities to assist with physical distancing guidelines, support telehealth infrastructure, as well as other important necessary measures. Harvard Pilgrim has committed $3 million to support independent primary care practices in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine. This support is consistent with Harvard Pilgrim's mission to improve the quality and value of health care for the people and the communities it serves.
The independent primary care practices Harvard Pilgrim is supporting are, on average, small and physician-owned, many with limited access to capital or other external support to assist them during the pandemic. While shortages of PPE have eased since the start of pandemic, many of these practices are forced to explore expensive avenues or use multiple vendors to purchase PPE, as the supply chain typically favors large health care systems with significant buying power. Additionally, many practices, especially those in rural communities, lack the resources and infrastructure to fully integrate telehealth into their practices.
According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, visits to primary care providers were declining prior to the pandemic, decreasing by close to 25% from 2008 to 2016. And a recent national survey of physician practices indicates at least 36% of primary practices are at risk of closure due to the financial implications of COVID-19.
"Our financial support of these independent primary care practices is crucial, as many of our members, especially those with chronic medical conditions, utilize these practices as their only source of medical care," said Michael Carson, president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim. "Without these practices, many patients, especially those living in rural communities, could have limited access to health care. Further, independent primary care practices are serving a critical role during the pandemic, testing patients for COVID-19, providing care for those living with the long-term effects of the virus, and in the future, administering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients when it is available."
"While our office has remained available to patients throughout the pandemic; we had to change our approach. We had to shut down routine care for many months. We had to limit the number of people who come into the office and treated per day to allow for social distancing," said Dennis Kobylarz, MD, of Canaan, Connecticut. "There is the challenge of cost and locating equipment and cleaning supplies to clean all areas of the office between every patient for extra caution of COVID0-19. I had the extra burden of cost and time to implement a virtual medical platform. We are taking all needed steps to keep our office safe for our patients and staff."
Harvard Pilgrim previously announced that it provided over $40 million in financial advances to support the provider community throughout the region. Additionally, Harvard Pilgrim committed $3 million to support community health centers focusing on those providing care to predominately black and brown communities, as well as centers that provide care for vulnerable populations, to support equity and equality in accessing health care, and address health disparities.
About Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Harvard Pilgrim and its family of companies provide health benefit plans, programs and services to more than 3 million customers in New England and beyond. A leading not-for-profit health services company, we guide our members – and the communities we serve – to better health. Founded by doctors over 50 years ago, we're building on our legacy. In partnership with our expansive network of doctors and hospitals, we're improving health outcomes and lowering costs through clinical quality and innovative care management. Our commitment to the communities we serve is driven by the passion of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. Through its work, low- and moderate-income families are gaining greater access to fresh, affordable food — a cornerstone to better health and well-being.