The COVID-19 pandemic is a profound change event for U.S. primary care physicians and their medical practices.
We examined how a group of U.S. primary care physicians and their medical practices used resiliency-based strategies, tactics, and mindsets to navigate pandemic-related change over the time period early 2020 through mid-2021.
A 15-month longitudinal qualitative study of the same 10 physicians interviewed a total of 42 times at four time intervals during the 2020–2021 COVID-19 pandemic. Data were analyzed using a systematic coding approach consisting of first- and second-order code categories feeding into an overall interpretive framework of resiliency-based adaptations.
Primary care physicians and their practices engaged in two main resiliency-based strategic adaptations during the pandemic. These adaptations were labeled “keeping the business afloat” and “keeping primary care relevant for patients.” Each consisted of different strategies and tactics that shared common features including proactiveness, innovativeness, and pragmatism. Specific resiliency-based mindsets were identified that helped physicians both initially engage in needed strategies and tactics while continuing to engage in them over time.
The results demonstrate how physicians use resiliency-based adaptation in response to profound change in their environments, defined by behavioral variety and motivated by self-interested and patient-centered imperatives.
Physicians are proactive and possess multiple adaptive capabilities. Seen in this more positive light, health care organizations should focus on greater engagement of their physician-employees in implementing innovation in care delivery and managing change, that is, as responsible partners rather than resistors to meeting organizational imperatives.