Family Physicians Make Practice Adjustments During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Submitted on Mon, 04/04/2022 - 10:55

The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption in health care delivery, including a significant reduction in in-person primary care office visits that remained below pre-pandemic levels for months. Rapid changes were required in family medicine practices, to not only safely meet patient needs, but to also protect the physicians and their staff. Preliminary analysis of a COVID-19 Performance Improvement (PI) activity introduced by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) in April 2020 found nine common practice change areas in the early stages of the pandemic, with virtualization of patient visits and implementing new workflows being most prominent.

ABFM introduced the Self-Directed Clinical PI activity in 2014 to provide a pathway for physicians to report on improvement efforts they are already doing in their practice. In April 2020, ABFM modified the self-directed PI template to create a COVID-specific PI activity to provide a way for family physicians to reflect on the changes they made in their practice as a result of the pandemic and to receive Family Medicine Certification credit for this. This proved to be a very popular activity within the ABFM continuous certification portfolio, which allowed ABFM to identify and curate learnings and successful early-pandemic practice adaptations as a resource for other physicians considering similar changes in their practice. Physician learnings were categorized into 12 emerging themes: safety, process of care/workflow, positive view of virtualization, access to care, patient satisfaction, team, patient/physician communication, quality of care, technology, patient visit volume, coding/reimbursement/regulatory issues, and stress-burnout.

“The lessons learned during the early stages of the pandemic will likely inform the post-COVID-19 role of virtual care,” said David Price, MD, lead author and Senior Advisor to the President for ABFM. “These lessons are applicable to not only small and medium sized independent practices, but to larger health system networks as well.” Additional practice adaptations reported since the study analysis include hybrid (in-person and remote) care, in-office testing for COVID-19, and vaccine promotion and administration.

The COVID-19 PI activity demonstrates the importance of aligning board-certification PI activities with what family physicians are already doing.  As of March 2022, ABFM had received over 25,000 COVID-PI submissions, making it one of the most popular PI activities in ABFM history.

Read the article here: Practice Adjustments Made by Family Physicians During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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