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Improving Access to Care

Problem:

In a universal context, accessible healthcare means medical care is:

  • Available – People are diagnosed and treated promptly, and can obtain quality preventive care early enough to avoid illness or complications. Services are offered within a reasonable distance from where people live.
  • Appropriate – The right mix of health care professionals exists to attend to people’s most frequent needs. Cultural and linguistic barriers are addressed in such a way that patients get proper diagnoses and can communicate effectively with their providers.
  • Affordable –  Basic health insurance coverage, the linchpin of accessibility in the U.S. system, is provided for all. Additional, out-of-pocket costs are adjusted for those with low incomes.

​Improving access to healthcare can mean different things to different participants in the heath delivery ecosystem.

Patients

For patients, access means gaining entry into the health care system:

  • Finding a suitable healthcare provider with whom the patient can communicate and trust, whether it be a PCP, specialist or hospital
  • Getting to an appointment or location where needed services are provided

Often geographical distances and shortages or primary care or specialists make access difficult for patients. This can be compounded by health and life issues such as the ability to travel, access to transportation, work hours, and cultural/language barriers.

Doctors

For  doctors, access issues often involve:

  • Being able to be contactable by a wider population and the ability to service a larger panel of patients
  • Getting to locations such as remote clinics where they provider their services
  • Providing “after hour” accessibility, and being available to their patients when coming into the office is not possible.

Physician drivers for providing better access include increasing patient satisfaction, maximizing productivity, giving them more time to spend with sicker patients, increasing practice productivity, and minimizing impact to their off work hours.

Healthcare Delivery Organizations

For healthcare delivery organizations, access concerns and issues may include:

  • Rural and community hospitals: Getting their patients access to medical specialties, especially after hours and retaining patients in their local community.
  • Tertiary and specialty providers: Providing their services to associate hospitals and/or offering up their services or ‘brand’ to a wider geographical area.
  • Rehabs and assisted living facilities: Having an ability to treat patients in place without necessitating transport.