The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Surgical Practice in the Southeastern United States: Results of a Survey of the Membership of the Southeastern Surgical Congress

Am Surg. 2020 Aug;86(8):916-925. doi: 10.1177/0003134820945203. Epub 2020 Sep 14.

Abstract

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic dramatically altered the delivery of surgical care.

Methods: Members of the Southeastern Surgical Congress were surveyed regarding system adjustments, personal impact, and productivity losses. Subgroups were analyzed for disproportionate impact across practice models (academic/employed/private), practice communities (urban, suburban, rural), and practice case-mix categories (broad general surgery, narrow general surgery, specialty practice, hospital-based practice).

Results: 135 respondents reported that 98.5% of surgeons and 97% of hospitals canceled elective cases. Practices and hospitals reduced staffing dramatically. Telemedicine was utilized by most respondents. Hospitals variably implemented system changes, developed tests, and set up diagnostic centers. Most surgeons anticipated resumption of practice and hospital activity by July 1, 2020. More than one-quarter reported worsened financial status and personal well-being. Interestingly, family/personal relationships were improved in more than one-third. Most surgeons anticipate reduced year-end case volumes, clinical productivity, and salary. In subgroup analyses, academic surgeons were more likely than employed and private-practice surgeons to use telemedicine and to work in hospitals with in-house COVID-19 testing. Private-practice surgeons expected decreased financial status, case volumes, relative value units (RVUs), and salary. More rural surgeons anticipate reduced salary than urban and suburban surgeons. Surgeons in narrow general surgery practice reported more furlough of employees than specialty surgeons, hospital-based surgeons, and broad-based general surgeons. Narrow-practice surgeons and specialists were more likely to report RVU reductions and improved family/personal relationships.

Discussion: The COVID-19 slowdown affected surgeons throughout the southeastern United States. Variations between different practice models, communities, and case-mix categories may help inform surgeons in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; financial impact; practice impact; slowdown; surgery; well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Southeastern United States
  • Surgeons*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2