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Tryon Medical featured in Bloomberg: Doctors’ Practices Face Cash Crunch as Pandemic Halts Economy

Tryon Medical CEO Dr. Dale Owen was featured in a Bloomberg Prognosis report filed by John Tozzi March 24, 2020. The report discusses the financial challenges COVID-19 has caused for medical practices.

Read the story and listen to the podcast here. Here are some highlights:

  • As the coronavirus swept across the U.S. in the past two weeks, small businesses turned away customers, and hospitals braced for a surge of patients. Doctors’ offices have been doing both.
  • In many respects, medical practices resemble other small businesses that have suffered from the economic ripple effects caused by the coronavirus. Demand for some of their most fundamental and lucrative services has withered, replaced by a rolling crisis that’s upended the lives of workers and customers, and caused acute pain that could throw their long-term financial health into doubt. Primary-care doctors are counseling patients who may have Covid-19 while trying to treat those with more familiar ailments through online visits that pay much less than routine in-person appointments.
  • “It’s the right thing to do,” said Farzad Mostashari, chief executive officer of Aledade. The company supports about 550 physician practices, including Mullins’s, that care for a total of 2 million patients. “The very things that the practices are doing to protect the community and to protect their patients are financial ruination for them.”
  • When virtual visits are reimbursed by health-care plans or government programs, Mostashari said, they often pay 30% less than in-person consults.
  • Taking care of people with conditions such as hypertension and diabetes is essential to protecting hospitals’ capacity to treat Covid-19 patients.
  • At Tryon Medical Partners in Charlotte, North Carolina, in-person patient visits have declined as much as 30% since March 14, with revenue down about as much. The 92-doctor practice set up Covid-19 testing sites and eight patients have tested positive. Many of the group’s 130,000 patients need ongoing treatment to manage chronic conditions, said CEO Dale Owen, a cardiologist.
  • “We have to keep these patients out of the hospital to allow the hospitals to do their job,” Owen said. “They’re doing a heroic job. We have to do a heroic job to keep people out of the hospital.”
  • Owen said the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and UnitedHealthcare are paying for virtual care on par with in-person visits, but other large insurers are not. A spokesman for CVS Health’s Aetna unit said telemedicine is reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits. Humana Inc. said Tuesday that it would temporarily pay providers the same for telehealth as office visits. Cigna Corp. didn’t respond to requests for comment.