Supply costs climb for independent physician practices — 6 insights

The pandemic has driven up supply expenses for the owners of small physician practices, including Milwaukee-based family medicine specialist Barbara Hummel, MD, according to a Nov. 9 USA Today report.

Six insights:

1. With revenue down substantially and PPE costs mounting, Dr. Hummel's private practice "is technically bankrupt," she told USA Today. "I'm paying all my expenses out of my personal funds … using retirement savings."

2. Before the pandemic, Dr. Hummel's practice spent about $12 on a pack of 50 surgical masks. The price for the same amount jumped to $50 this spring.

3. When Dr. Hummel's distributors were overwhelmed with demand from bigger hospital systems that hold more purchasing power, she "had to scrounge," she told USA Today. She obtained her first N95 mask from a patient who had extra in his woodworking shop, and she purchased additional masks from Amazon for $15 to $30 per pack.

4. To offer COVID-19 testing — despite the fact that it depletes PPE and doesn't generate revenue — Dr. Hummel had to invest in more gowns, gloves, face shields and N95 masks.

5. In addition, Dr. Hummel has invested in UV-C light equipment, while spending more to keep hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes at the ready.

6. Dr. Hummel is considering leasing her practice space to another physician or joining an independent physicians group if her business doesn't gain better footing within the next year. She has no interest in turning to hospital employment.

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