- Almost a third of primary care providers have "no idea" when or if their practice will get coronavirus vaccines, according to new survey results from the Primary Care Collaborative and Larry A. Green Center. Only 19% said they are currently administering the shot.
- Primary care providers are making some efforts to help in distribution, as about half of those surveyed said they are referring patients who call about the vaccine to a known source. Three in 10 said they are reaching out to their patients to give them information on receiving it.
- The survey also found that doctors are showing increased confidence in telehealth after many had to rush to get equipment and become established on virtual platforms in the early months of the pandemic.
Primary care providers have taken financial hits from the COVID-19 crisis as fear of exposure to the virus keeps people from seeking out routine care like screenings and checkups.
One recent report asking people about care avoidance in September found that a third had delayed or forgone care during the pandemic.
And public efforts to reduce spread like mask wearing and social distancing had drastically reduced flu infections this season, another frequent reason for a doctor visit.
The vaccines offer hope of a return to more normal circumstances, but some primary care providers are feeling left behind in the distribution efforts. That's despite the fact that research shows personal doctors as the most trusted source for vaccine information.
The new survey found a third of respondents reporting no contact with their local health department and a quarter saying they did not know how to advise patients calling about the vaccine.
On a brighter note, the vast majority of providers said they have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine themselves but some reported staff who were reluctant or refusing to get the shot.
Other questions zeroed in on the rising use of telehealth amid the pandemic.
Uncertainty for the future of telehealth surrounding reimbursement and federal regulations still exist, but as providers have continued to use them for patients reluctant to return to traditional care settings, many are settling in to the practice.
The survey found that 60% of clinicians said telehealth "will now always be a part of my practice."
The survey also shed light on burnout and staffing issues doctors' offices face. Nearly 40% of respondents said they had personal knowledge of clinicians who had quit, retired early or closed their practice. Others reported difficulty filling empty staff positions.