Patient Barriers to Care
Barriers to care can prevent patients from obtaining the care they need – whether immediately or on an ongoing basis. According to HealthyPeople.gov, barriers to accessing health services can lead to unmet health needs, delays in receiving appropriate care, inability to obtain preventive services, additional financial burdens, and preventable hospitalizations. Example barriers include:
- Transportation challenges: Being able to drive to a follow-up appointment, having a reliable method of transportation, and the cost associated with travel expenses may present challenges for some patients – whether they live in a rural or metro area. Also, public transportation and ridesharing options might not be available in the patient’s community. As a result, these patients may not be able to reach the care they need when they need it most.
- Geographic isolation: Rural residents have less access to physicians urban area populations. Rural residents also have more frequent occurrences of diabetes and coronary heart disease than non-rural areas. Not surprisingly, 19.5% of rural adults describe their health status as fair/poor vs. 15.6% of their urban counterparts.
- Culturally relevant care: For patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), linguistic and cultural barriers can result in misunderstandings regarding diagnosis, treatment, and self-care. Medication instructions and follow-up care plans might not be fully understood, resulting in non-compliance. There may be a hesitancy to ask questions for clarification or request assistance with emerging conditions, resulting in an exacerbation of chronic conditions which can lead to a rehospitalization. These scenarios can lead to lower patient satisfaction and worse outcomes for LEP patients.
- Specialized care: Workforce shortages may impact post-acute care organizations as well as medical practices. The gap in specialists may lead to constant churn and recruiting initiatives. Employee churn – which can lead to cancelled/rescheduled appointments and undermine an organization’s ability to take on new patients – can lead to a breakdown in the continuum of care, weaker overall outcomes, and an increased risk of readmissions. Ultimately, this can adversely impact provider organizations’ reputation in the community.
Role of Telehealth in Breaking Barriers
Synzi’s telehealth and virtual care platform can help reduce or overcome some of these barriers, help patients better access care, and improve the quality of care delivered:
- Virtual visits can be used instead of some in-person visits, helping patients better manage travel costs.
- As shortages of healthcare professionals exist in rural communities, intelligent call routing can quickly align patients requests for follow-up care with available providers.
- A medical interpreter can be included in the virtual visit in order to ensure that the patient fully comprehends the care being provided and the expectations going forward. Ongoing messaging can also be translated into the patient’s primary or preferred language to deepen patient understanding and engagement.
- Lastly, a telehealth platform can optimize specialists’ productivity. In-demand specialists can care for more patients by converting “drive time” to “patient time”.