On April 30, 2020, Celia Van Lenten was quoted in Part B News on reopening medical practices as restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 begin to lift. According to the article, roughly two months of service limitations have taken a massive financial toll on practices, many of which have either drastically cut back on encounters or closed entirely. Providers also are concerned for patients who have postponed needed care for fear of infection or have had elective procedures and surgeries suspended.
“Some specialties have been putting off very important surgeries,” says Lenten. “Elective doesn’t mean optional — in this context, it means it could be delayed without undue risk to the patient. In cardiology, for example, we’ve seen a lot of important procedures put off.” While some patients “may benefit from other interventions,” Van Lenten says, “they’re not getting them either because the procedure is considered elective or the patient is too scared to go to the hospital to get the procedure done even if it’s not elective.
While providers appreciate the new flexibilities for telehealth billing that have come with the public health emergency, many seem to tire of relying on it for the bulk of their patient care. “From feedback I’ve been getting, doctors are ready to get back to work,” Van Lenten says. “If they’re not able to be on the front lines, it can be very painful to sit back and talk to their patients through a computer.