U.S. ECPs' Business Concerns and Stress Levels Grow, as Coronavirus Pandemic Impact Widens

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NEW YORK—As the number of COVID-19 cases grow and more parts of the U.S. put "shelter-in-place" requests and mandates into place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the impact is growing more pronounced in the provider sector of business. Accompanied by many practice and retail location closings, the escalation of business concerns—and accompanying stress levels—are evident among the responses of eyecare professionals taking part in the third wave of the ECP Coronavirus Impact Study, conducted by Jobson Optical Research.

The third study, following two prior ones conducted in mid March, was launched on March 24 and closed out yesterday, March 25. There were 1,285 respondents in total, 61 percent were optometrists, 32.5 percent opticians, among others. The full report is available to download, at no charge, today on the Jobson Research site here









Sixty-three percent of the third survey ECP Coronavirus Study were one-unit locations, 21.5 percent two- or three-unit locations, 5.6 percent with four to 10 locations and 9.5 percent with 10 or more locations. Respondents to the third wave of the study were 43.1 percent male, 56.9 percent female. Questions that could be compared among the three studies are included. A number of new/first time questions are reported in the third wave of the study to gauge emerging issues and attitudes toward the situation as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

The third Jobson survey probed more specifically to learn what ECPs' current priorities are. Reflecting their often painful decisions to temporarily close or close for an unknown period of time, which directly impacts staff in some situations, the latest survey queried ECPs about what they need most right now to help them get through the situation. The highest response of 56.7 percent was "to understand unemployment resources."

Forty-eight percent are looking for help to gear back up while reopening. Some 45 percent are looking for help negotiating payments to suppliers and landlords. Other top concerns are understanding what small business loans are being offered (43.6 percent) and learning more about work-at-home technology for doctors and staff (33.2 percent).

Related to that are the noteworthy responses in the third study that illustrate the impact of personal and business stress among respondents due to the fact that so many more practices and optical locations have had to close, temporarily or long-term. This time, the actions of local cities and states were pronounced among the respondents, with school closures in their areas true for some 98 percent of the respondents, the ordering of non-essential businesses to close at nearly 86 percent, and stay-at-home advisories impacting nearly 73 percent.

Among respondents who indicated adjusted hours and closing, 60 percent of those surveyed said their location(s) is closed, with about 50 percent of patients rescheduling their previously scheduled appointments.

Of those offering limited services, nearly 85 percent of respondents, the majority of these are offering care only for emergency cases/by appointment.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to underscore an increasing interest in telehealth services among ECPs. This survey recorded 13 percent offering these services already, and another 30 percent of respondents saying they plan to do so in the future, the highest percentage among the three surveys, the first of which was conducted March 13-17.

As a result of much of this, plus so many uncertainties about the duration of the crisis, ECP stress levels are pronounced, with personal stress levels for all respondents, on a scale of 1 to 10, averaging 6.7. Their stress about their business is higher, averaging 7.3 among all respondents on a scale of 1 to 10.