The pandemic exasperated the issue of delayed healthcare to staggering numbers nationwide. More than 41% of adults in the U.S reported delaying or avoiding medical care due to COVID-19 concerns. And it hit minorities and the underserved population even harder.
We’ll look at the state of delayed healthcare in the US, the cost of it and the steps healthcare organizations are taking to improve patient access and equity.
Delayed Care Puts People’s Health at Risk
A recent article in the JAMA Health Forum looked into why people delayed their health care for serious problems, and 69% said it was due to financial and access barriers.
Access barriers included:
- Being able to find a physician who would see them
- They needed help booking an appointment
- The inability to access the location of their healthcare provider
Delaying care is exceptionally bad for people who have chronic health conditions. People with chronic health conditions can deteriorate quickly when they delay getting proper care.
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Waiting for Care Increases Health Disparities
For decades, disparities and inequities in healthcare have resulted in different access and quality of care for various segments of the population.
Black Americans had an increased rate of care avoidance during the pandemic, which could have impacted not only the treatment of COVID-19 but also worsened existing health conditions.
Increased Mortality Rates
This disparity was made glaringly obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Covid Tracking Project, Black Americans were dying at a rate of 1.4 times higher than White Americans.
Even worse, according to a CDC report, black women are three times more likely to die from complications during their pregnancy.
According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, Black Americans also have the highest death rate and the lowest survival rate of any ethnic group in the country.
Budget-Based Models Fared Better During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the delayed care that came along with it, exposed the high financial risk in the current fee-for-service system.
Because of this, many healthcare systems started to look at budget-based systems to help reduce healthcare spending and make it more affordable.
Switching to Value-Based Healthcare
The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that it was time to switch to value-based healthcare.
Value-based healthcare is built on the concept of delivering the best possible outcomes for patients and being more efficient in spending.
Here’s a roadmap that healthcare systems can use to transform their organization from a fee-based to value-based healthcare:
- Segment their patient population and create unifying goals for defined patient groups
- Create standardized patient outcomes to help define measures of success
- Collect and measure the standardized outcomes
- Benchmark and then share the outcome data
- Implement improvements based on the data and keep reviewing and learning
Following the steps above, healthcare systems can lay the groundwork to create more effective and personalized treatments for their patients.
Tips to Improve the Delivery & Speed of Care
Now that we know that value-based healthcare works, healthcare systems can look at ways to improve the delivery and speed of care for every patient.
Concentrate on The Results That Matter to Patients
A study by the NIH asked respondents what mattered most to them as patients.
Let’s look at some of the highlights from the report.
- 80% said that they wanted shared decision-making for medications
- 57% said they want to know what their health insurance covers
- 50% wanted shared decision-making for testing and procedures
- 50% wanted to share decision-making for exercise, diet, and leading a healthy lifestyle
- 43% wanted all of the tests that can help them understand their condition better
- 35% wanted shared decision-making for their personal medical responsibility
- 33% wanted their doctor to be kind and to connect with them as a person, not a patient
- 32% wanted to know what they are being charged for exactly
- 23% wanted their doctors to explain things to them in a way they understand
Being more involved in their personal healthcare is something that patients look at as an essential part of a positive patient experience.
Public Health and Clinical Strategies For Improving Access to Healthcare
Another way to help improve the delivery and speed of healthcare is to focus on the social determinants of health (SDOH) to introduce widespread community involvement that can benefit a much larger patient population.
The lack of transportation is a significant factor in delayed healthcare because many people, especially minorities, and those in rural areas, cannot make it to their healthcare provider.
Individual and community solutions include:
- Awareness - Asking people about their access to transportation
- Adjustment - Reducing the need for in-person care by using telehealth technologies
- Assistance - Providing vouchers for public transit or ride-sharing programs
- Alignment - Investing in community ride-sharing programs
- Advocacy - Providing more access to a community’s transportation infrastructure
Recognize the Difficulty of Changing Systems Up Front
Healthcare systems must understand that it will be difficult to change systems as part of their strategic planning.
The result however is that healthcare systems can improve the delivery and speed of care affordably and sustainably.
Assess Your Organization’s Readiness
During this phase, it’s critical to look at the available data to understand priority areas for an operational and clinical redesign.
It’s essential to understand your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, areas of opportunity, and finances to determine feasible operational and clinical changes.
Achieving Clinical Alignment
It’s critical to get the buy-in and execution from physicians and partners by allowing them to contribute to the decision-making and goal-setting process.
Clinicians must also understand the metrics used to measure their performance and any financial incentives that align with improved care delivery.
Transforming Administrative Processes
Access to robust patient, operations, and performance data combined with analytics is a big step in developing and deploying evidence-based clinical pathways across the healthcare system.
Evidence-based care often utilizes checklists, the daily review of patient records, using multidisciplinary teams, and providing timely feedback to clinicians.
Own The Patient Experience
Healthcare systems need to rapidly shift to being patient-centric. With value-based healthcare and hospital price transparency, patients can now shop around for their healthcare.
Patients want more control over their healthcare. Making it easier for patients to get a diagnosis online, schedule an appointment, verify insurance coverage, and refill prescriptions are excellent ways to improve the patient experience.
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Better Patient Routing is Here with Clearstep
Delayed healthcare is a problem that continues to plague the healthcare industry with devastating impacts on the most vulnerable segments of our society.
Virtual Triage from Clearstep is a powerful tool that any healthcare system or medical group can use to help improve healthcare access and patient routing. Using AI chat technology, a potential patient can quickly and accurately get a diagnosis and remotely choose the next steps in their care.
When they are ready, the patient can easily book their healthcare services. They can view options for their care, compare prices, confirm insurance coverage and secure appointments online at their leisure.
With Virtual Triage, healthcare systems activate the ability to remotely route patients to the right healthare services, including 911, the ER, specialists, and telemedicine.
Virtual Triage can help your healthcare system acquire and retain patients by providing an exceptional, personal experience.