Half of the doctors in the U.S. say they have treated at least one patient with COVID-19 symptoms, but were not easily able to test for it while significant safety and medical supply challenges persist, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by Doximity, in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and RAND Researchers polled 2,617 physicians across specialties nationwide. The study has been described as the first and largest, wide-scale national study of physician views on the global coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers found that 73 percent of U.S. physicians said they were not able to quickly and easily test patients for coronavirus. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the physicians reported concerns about the likelihood of patients avoiding testing or treatment due to financial barriers.
Some of the key findings were that doctors felt that medical supplies and COVID-19 testing were inadequate. A total of 77 percent of the physicians said they did not believe their hospital or clinic had adequate medical supplies or equipment to manage the crisis.
Nearly 60 percent of the physicians did not think there were enough coronavirus precautions in their clinical setting, while 70 percent felt that government agencies were not doing enough to support the medical supply chain or adequately responding to the pandemic.
Almost half of the doctors who responded to the survey reported the concern that patients are avoiding testing or treatment due to financial barriers.
Illinois, probably realizing this potential problem, announced a series of activities that expands and expedites Medicaid coverage for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak. Illinois’ plan is to open up Medicaid to uninsured people diagnosed with the coronavirus, regardless of their income, and also help cover out-of-pocket costs related to the virus for insured residents.
Social distancing has been touted as an effective way to curb the spread of the virus and most – but not all – physicians agree that it is absolutely necessary to successfully fight the coronavirus pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of responding doctors believe that current social distancing measures are appropriate; 28% responded that current measures are likely an under-reaction.
More than 80 percent of physicians either already or plan to employ telemedicine virtual visits with patients, according to the study.
Chris Whaley, lead author and policy researcher at the RAND Corporation said the findings highlight the difficult road ahead for healthcare providers confronting the coronavirus pandemic. “We hope this insight on physician experiences and concerns surrounding the pandemic will help design appropriate and immediate policy response.”
Anupam Bapu Jena, an associate professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the findings highlight clinical, medical safety and supply issues that must quickly be addressed.
Amit Phull, a Chicago physician, said they had already begun to see patients in severe distress due to this pandemic.
“The bottom line is that the issues flagged in this study, both at the clinical and system level, need to be addressed quickly for us to get and stay ahead of this,” said Phull, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and vice president of strategy and insights at Doximity.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus globally is nearing 1 million, with almost 50,000 deaths recorded as of April 2. In the U.S. there are 215,395 confirmed cases, with 5,113 deaths recorded.
President Donald Trump warned of “difficult days” for the U.S. “We are going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific,” he said as per the Guardian.
A vaccine for the coronavirus is yet to be found. Moderna Inc, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc, and Novavax Inc are some of the companies that have announced they are working to develop vaccinations against the virus. The World Health Organization has also announced that Gilead Sciences’ drug, remdesivir could help treat the deadly coronavirus.