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NEW YORK—In close to nine months since the advent of the COVID-19 virus to certain parts of the country in mid-March, now much more widely spread throughout the U.S., ECPs have learned to cope with the impacts of the pandemic on their patients, their staff, their exam room and dispensary operations in different ways. In general, with upswings in the number of cases in most states in late October/November, priorities toward cleaning and sanitation have taken hold and as many as 88 percent of respondents to the Nov. 24-30 Jobson Coronavirus ECP Survey say they believe hygiene protocols will continue post-COVID.

They also view the shift to seeing patients by appointment will stay to some degree with a mix of responses—some 56 percent of ECP respondents feel this will continue post-COVID while 44 percent feel this trend will end. As U.S. cases increase, the 17th Wave revealed that 49 percent of respondents are "somewhat concerned" and 25 percent are now "very concerned" about the possibilities of having to close their practices (again) due to the virus.

Nevertheless, 27 percent said they were seeing the same amount of patients per day in the Nov. 24-30 time period than they were in 2019 at this time, while 18 percent said they felt they were seeing more patients per day than the prior year. The latter number did decline a bit since September, however, with 55 percent saying they were seeing fewer patients per day in late November than this time in 2019.

The adjustment in seeing patients, however, still enabled 32 percent of them to say that their profits in November were comparable to the prior year, with another 27 percent saying their profitability was higher than November 2019. But again, those ECPs saying they experienced lower profitability compared to 2019 ticked up higher than the prior Sept. 18-22 and Oct. 16-20 Coronavirus Surveys, reflecting recent shifts in overall activity. Overall, revenue activity, as a percentage of the same weeks in the prior year, was still 72 percent in the Nov. 24-30 survey, compared to 74 percent that held steady for Sept 18-22 and Oct. 16-20.

Further, there are indications that business in the past few months is not just reflecting pent-up demand from closures in the spring. In November, some 44 percent of ECP respondents said they were seeing existing patients who came in around this time for their regularly scheduled appointments and some 23 percent of respondents, a high point since July survey periods, said they were seeing new patients in the Nov. 24-30 period.

The 17th Wave of the exclusive survey, conducted by Jobson Optical Research, has been revamped for this edition, showing relevant comparisons to prior surveys but also reflecting new questions, to gauge how ECPs are viewing the pandemic's near and longer-term impact on the way business will be done. Jobson Research has been surveying ECPs about their practices' experience with the pandemic since Wave 1, March 13-17, 2020.

In VM's Coronavirus Briefing section, you can catch up on all of the 2020 Jobson surveys here. 

Click to view a PDF of the full survey results.