Specialty Physicians Report Signs of Rebound from COVID-19, but Are Pessimistic About Reopening Without a Resurgence
According to feedback from the sixth wave of COVID-19 impact tracking, Spherix Global Insights finds that patient volumes remain severely depressed and physicians are worried about patients with non-COVID conditions being able to access care
EXTON, Pa., May 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Since the end of March, Spherix Global Insights has been tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the practices of dermatologists, gastroenterologists, nephrologists, neurologists, and rheumatologists. According to the most recent results of the Special Report, based on a survey of 265 specialists surveyed on May 8th, while the impact is beginning to lessen, the damage that has been done is profound.
At roughly two months into the COVID-19 crisis, specialists report office visits occurring at only a trickle of the norm, with gastroenterologists being particularly hard hit (reporting a 93% decrease from typical volume). Telemedicine, which has been widely implemented in response to COVID-19, has steadily increased week by week, but cannot come close to filling the gap. In addition to gastroenterologists, dermatologists have also seen disproportionate carnage to their practices which are heavily reliant on revenue from elective procedures.
Nephrologists have been at least somewhat buffered due to their dialysis patients, most of whom require life-sustaining treatments three times a week. While office visits for non-dialysis patients are starkly lower and hospital consults are also depressed, contact rates with dialysis patients remain intact – though some have implemented telemedicine for these engagements.
The ongoing nature of the shutdown is translating into major financial impact on physician practices, and over 60% have applied for a small business loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act. In addition, many are considering strategies to recoup losses, ranging from weekend and evening work to adding new services once reopened. According to one gastroenterologist, "We are leveraging our existing equipment to perform and bill for new outpatient ancillary tests such as ultrasound liver elastography for fatty liver. We are also using telemedicine to lower 'no show' rates.' "
As would be expected, engagement with industry has been a low priority for physicians, though about 40% report being receptive to virtual engagements. Specialists continue to stress the importance of sample availability, free drug programs for the increasing number of patients reporting financial hardship, and essentially, just being available if needed. The majority of physicians across all autoimmune specialties (dermatology, gastroenterology, and rheumatology) note AbbVie as the manufacturer that has been the most supportive throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Neurologists report the most communication and support from Biogen out of the companies competing in the MS space, while citing Allergan and Biohaven (both with newly launched brands) as the most active in the migraine landscape. Nephrologists, with only 12% indicating that industry has been very supportive, see slightly more support coming from companies promoting novel phosphate binders (Akebia with Auryxia and Fresenius with Velphoro) and hyperkalemia treatments (Relypsa with Veltassa and AstraZeneca with Lokelma).
With fall conferences expected to be conducted virtually and more than half of the specialists claiming they will have less time for industry engagement during the reopening phase, pharmaceutical companies, especially those with more recently approved products, will need to develop creative solutions to engage with physicians. Some of the lasting impact of COVID-19 will alter the rules of industry engagement, notably in terms of offices requiring representatives to have appointments (rather than just dropping in), screening for symptoms upon arrival, and donning of PPE when visiting the office.
The reopening process is likely to take months and close to one-half of the specialists surveyed expect it will take at least four months before patient volume returns to (near) normal; 78% say this experience will have a lasting impact on how their practice operates. Right now, the focus is on opening safely – including having adequate PPE and the ability to test, organizing waiting rooms to adhere to social distancing, and addressing patient fears about coming to the office and risking possible exposure. Overall, the group remains pessimistic, as three-quarters expect a resurgence as we reopen.
The Special Report series continues on a monthly cadence with upcoming publications in June, July, August, and September. In-depth coverage on the process of reopening, the market access issues arising from loss of insurance and financial hardship, and virtual engagement activities with industry will be prime focus areas.
About the Special Report Special Report: Multi-Specialty Impact of COVID-19 is an ongoing series of weekly (until mid-May) and monthly (from June to September) monitoring that evaluates the impact of COVID-19 on physicians and their practices – including, but not limited to, the utilization of telemedicine, at-risk patient groups, key concerns, support from industry, and future changes in prescribing patterns. Specialty reports are available for dermatology, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, and rheumatology.
About Spherix Global Insights Spherix Global Insights is a hyper-focused market intelligence firm that leverages our own independent data and expertise to provide strategic guidance, so biopharma stakeholders make decisions with confidence. We specialize in select immunology, nephrology, and neurology markets.
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