Healthcare barriers in the United States keep many Americans from receiving the care they need. In fact, a WebMD survey reveals that 7 out of 10 Americans have delayed receiving healthcare due to cost. However, these financial limitations are indicative of a whole system of interrelated issues affecting the accessibility and affordability of healthcare. These include geographic and social limitations, as well as supply issues.
The decision-making framework of health economics suggests that healthcare providers must have a patient-centric approach to address healthcare challenges. This means that planning, budgeting, monitoring, and evaluating decisions must empower patients and improve work quality and delivery for providers. To do this, solutions must be built on addressing issues systemically. Here are three barriers in healthcare and what’s being done to address them.
Geographic and transportation limitations
Many Americans may have difficulty accessing healthcare, especially in rural areas. The scarcity of medical facilities and professionals requires them to travel long distances to access healthcare services. Patients who are physically disabled, or are otherwise limited in mobility or transportation, might also have difficulty accessing healthcare services on-site. Traveling for healthcare can be costly in terms of travel time, finances, and time away from work.
Fortunately, doctors can now offer the same level of care virtually and on-site through telecommunication, depending on the type of medicine. While many physicians may opt to practice telehealth full-time, some practice a hybrid model of treating patients online and in person. Virtual physicians that use this hybrid model in the US vary depending on your location. Each state is subject to different rules and regulations governing healthcare entities. As a result, doctors can best serve patients within their area unless they choose to equip themselves with more licenses to operate outside of their state. This significantly raises accessibility and convenience for those facing geographic barriers to healthcare.
Gender and racial inequalities often compound to create financial and policy barriers, keeping Americans from accessing healthcare. This comes as many low-income neighborhoods are also often neighborhoods of color, indicating the correlation between racial and economic disparities. In addition to discriminatory economic inequality, the Commonwealth Fund reports that structural racism has led to policies that have resulted in health inequity by limiting people of color’s access to quality care.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has implemented the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS). HEDIS is a stratification by race and ethnicity in health plan quality measures sets to hold plans accountable for addressing disparities in their patient demographics. This is a critical move as incorporating social determinants in health-related data has been known to reduce costs and promote healthcare equity.
Medical personnel shortage
The United States is facing a shortage of medical personnel. This problem is mainly attributed to prolonged life expectancies and aging people’s increased need for medical attention. Because of this, the demand for nurses is set to increase dramatically, with 195,000 vacancies needing to be filled annually until 2030. Moreover, doctors are expected to face a shortage of 124,000 by 2034.
To meet the rising demand for healthcare professionals, governors from different states are proposing solutions such as expanding education programs to train more nurses and medical providers. Many others are proposing more apprenticeships, scholarships, and faculty training. In addition, states like Maine and New York are proposing raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to provide better compensation for doctors. These initiatives, if implemented widely, could target the shortage crisis sustainably.
While healthcare in America has a long way to go, these solutions give us a reason to be optimistic. Although the gaps are still being bridged, a holistic approach to addressing systemic issues can enhance the quality and accessibility of healthcare for all.
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