The top three social barriers to older people’s access to healthcare are economic instability, loneliness and food insecurity, according to research released on Monday.
The survey by insurer Medicare Advantage Alignment Healthcare surveyed 2,601 adults age 65 and older from July 24 to August 13. It focuses on the social determinants of health, which have been shown to have a greater effect on overall health than clinical care, according to National Academy of Medicine.
“With 10,000 adults turning 65 every day, it’s more urgent than ever to understand the issues older people face that stand in the way of their path to health, well-being and happiness,” said Dr. Dinesh Kumar, Chief Medical and Operating Officer of Alignment Healthcare, c news release. “This study offers insights into these barriers and provides a window into the solutions we need to consider to best meet these needs.” With this valuable information, we can help ensure our seniors receive the attention, respect and care they need and deserve, while raising expectations for what healthcare can be.”
Findings from the study include:
- More than one in five adults say that not being able to pay will be the main barrier to accessing care in the next year. Another in 10 say they don’t have the resources and support to cover medical bills, and nearly one in six have medical debt. Of those with medical debt, more than a quarter owe an amount equal to three months or more of living expenses.
- In the survey, 21% of respondents ranked loneliness and isolation as the main factors causing stress and mental health problems. A quarter said Covid-19 had the biggest negative effect on their mental health in the past year, and one in five said they were lonelier now than a year ago. Another one in five said they would use a non-medical attendant if available. Many also said that easier access to care — such as through telehealth or transportation to appointments — would reduce stress.
- Access to nutritious food is a barrier for many older people, with 15% of respondents saying they expect to struggle to put healthy food on their table in the next year. Food insecurity is caused by the rising cost of grocery shopping, the physical difficulty of preparing food, and the lack of transportation. A third of seniors rank food assistance as their top priority for support.
- More than 20% of seniors say a lack of reliable transportation is a barrier to seeking health care. One in seven said they would not have regular transport to medical care in the next year.
- One in 10 respondents say issues with accessing or using technology will be a challenge when seeking health care in the coming year. Another one in seven say technology training is the benefit they want most.
Several healthcare startups are addressing these issues. In the field of accessibility there is Allow medical bills, which helps people fight big bills and uses algorithms that find billing errors. His negotiators then work to secure fair prices. It’s another company PayZenwhich offers individual payment plans for patients.
To help elderly people struggling with loneliness, the company father helps health plans and employers connect their members with people for companionship, daily tasks and transportation. It’s a similar startup Mon Amiwhich pairs seniors with students.
Several startups are also tackling food insecurity, including EatWell, which partners with healthcare providers and delivers meal kits with simple recipes and fresh ingredients. It’s another NourishedRxwhich works with health plans and providers to deliver food to at-risk members.
Finally, to help seniors understand technology, Candoo Tech provides technical support and training to help them feel more comfortable using phones, computers and tablets. It’s another company GetSetUpan online service that helps seniors learn new skills, including technology.
Photo: PixelsEffect, Getty Images