Author: Aakash Anandjiwala
Healthcare is an essential part of one's quality of life that, unfortunately, does not encompass everyone. This accessibility to healthcare can be weighed on the differences of socioeconomic status seen around the nation. But, Martin Gulliford, Professor of Public Health at King's College London, measures access as an "ideal of utilization with subsets of affordability, physical accessibility, and acceptability of services being the common sources of measurement" (Gulliford et. al). Gulliford, here, is correct because of the various qualities of living people exhibit; the modes of getting the right healthcare may not be there for some individuals. Thus, creating a barrier between rural and urban health or underserved and overserved communities.
There are many obstacles when it comes to access to healthcare and how they are being addressed. There is a limited amount of appointment availability which potentially hinders how patients want to access their healthcare. But, there are ways to overcome how organizations approach this. By extending office hours, utilizing telehealth, or establishing urgent care centers, healthcare organizations can fix this problem, but this is only a minor fix and needs to be further addressed on a wider scale.
On a geographic scale, there are as many as 57 million Americans living in rural areas with challenges such as remote location, limited workforce, and physician shortages. To combat this, healthcare organizations look towards implementing telemedicine and expanding practice laws for physicians. But a doubt I have when it comes to focusing on telemedicine in rural areas is establishing the important physician-patient relationship. The ability to access these computers or smartphones is an issue because maybe some people cannot afford these devices. But, the transportation barriers would be dissolved with telemedicine and ride-share companies closing care gaps. I believe the physician-patient relationship is more personal and communicative face to face. And telemedicine, although a fix, would not be able to sufficiently showcase this.
Stepping through the door of a clinic or hospital is an obstacle, but being able to make sure patients are getting to the right type of facility is another barrier. Patients have the opportunity to choose between a micro-hospital, an emergency department, and many others, but educating the same patients on which of these facilities is the right choice for them is another challenge, “...only 46 percent of respondents correctly selected urgent care as the appropriate choice for a scenario in which a child is presenting with 104-degree fever, shivering, and coughing” (PatientEngagement). Healthcare organizations need to produce ways to educate patients on the uses of the different care sites whether it would be displaying the information or offering educational materials.
The American Medical Association has listed five essential steps to improve the accessibility to healthcare because coverage is not the only way to improve this access. In addition to addressing physician shortages, increasing efficiency, and administering telemedicine as previously discussed before, the American Medical Association also focuses on “stabilizing individual insurance marketplaces and retaining ACA market reforms while ensuring adequate funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid expansion” (AMA). These are only a few things healthcare organizations can do, however it is still a start to something bigger.
Gulliford, M., Figueroa-Munoz, J., Morgan, M., Hughes, D., Gibson, B., Beech, R., & Hudson, M. (2002). What does 'access to health care' mean?. Journal of health services research & policy, 7(3), 186–188. https://doi.org/10.1258/135581902760082517