KFF: 77% of women favor over-the-counter birth control pills - MedCity News

Although the quality of US health care and patient outcomes has generally improved over time, access to care—and therefore positive patient outcomes—is not equitable for all people. generally, one in 10 Americans does not have health insurancewhich is the result of a system breaking under the weight of high costs and increasing complexity.

The rate of diabetes is more than 30% higher among Native Americans and Hispanics than among whites. Death rates from heart disease, stroke, and prostate and breast cancer remain much higher among blacks.

If you live in a rural area and have a chronic condition (or multiple conditions), provider options are more limited than in densely populated areas. This means that finding a specialist or even being able to make an appointment can be a challenge.

There are many other variables that impact health care access and equity: socioeconomic, technology, gender, language barriers, and more. These factors are further complicated by the individual’s specific care needs.

Simply put, people without adequate health insurance coverage or proximity to quality care do not have the same opportunities to access care, and their overall health can be adversely affected.

Making matters worse, the US health care system continues to be extremely difficult to navigate and fraught with administrative burden. When it is easier and faster to access the most basic human needs than to visit a care provider, change is needed. In the search for meaningful solutions to these inequities, women’s health and technology investments are clear places to start.

The case for greater access

Although the US health care system has its flaws, we are a global leader in research, teaching, standards of care, and clinical outcomes. According to the Global Health Innovation Index, US health care ranks sixth in innovation in 2021, but second to last in fiscal stability. This makes access and capital issues frustrating. As care providers, we collectively know that we can do more for more patients if our systems make it easier to deliver and access care.

In an ideal world, adequate access to health care would mean that everyone can get the care they need in a timely manner and in a way that supports the best personal outcome. This includes meeting a supplier quickly and at a reasonable price. Increased access to preventive care would have exponential benefits for individuals and the health care system as a whole. Missed prevention opportunities alone cost the US $55 billion each year. When considering physical therapy as a first line of musculoskeletal intervention, research shows up to 26% cost savings at over $1500/patient.

Access issues are not limited to seeing a doctor. Frontline and preventive health services such as physiotherapy are also compromised. As Medicare reimbursement rates for ancillary services such as PT continue to decline, providers and patients are embroiled in conflict. Our goal is to help people maintain and return to their best physical health while running a national practice that relies on margin growth to combat macro trends and invest for the future.

Access follows reimbursement of costs and services covered by insurance companies. If providers are unable to provide services within business constraints, services may be curtailed. Business models relying on economies of scale may be forced out of more rural and remote areas where demand for services is limited. This means even less access for people in rural communities and the cycle continues.

Alternatively, if reduced reimbursement is passed on to patients in the form of higher premiums or out-of-pocket costs, fewer people will seek or be able to afford care, further limiting access for the uninsured and underinsured. When faced with spending limited household dollars on food and housing against non-emergency medical care, care will lose out every time – resulting in a less healthy population.

Make women’s health a priority

Women make up half of the world’s population, but are responsible for 80% of purchasing decisions in the healthcare industry. Yet, women’s health is considered a niche market and part of healthcare. Promoting women’s health is the single most impactful change we can make, as women play a disproportionate role in how and when others access care.

When I was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I saw firsthand that improving the health of all women can improve the health of an entire community or population. As advisors to many about where and when to receive care, we rarely recognize the powerful impact and influence women have on the overall well-being of their families and acquaintances. Unfortunately, many women often put the cares of others before their own.

In our roles as mothers, daughters, partners, and more, we naturally care for others and should do the same for ourselves. In fact, 76% of American women spend up to 10 hours a day caring for partners, spouses and/or children, and one in five (19%) women spend more than 10 hours a day caring for others. If women are the influential guide for many people to access health care, we must work harder to promote the health of all women. Our ability to play the role of helper in caring for others depends on it.

We can do much more

Beyond women’s health, we need to find workable solutions to other systemic inequities in the health care system. We need to reverse the negative trend that declining recovery rates are having on preventive care and overall access to services such as physical therapy.

Technology is another unlock to better access to healthcare. These innovations encompass improvements in how, when and where care is delivered. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the power and potential of providing virtual care to improve access, via telehealth video or over the phone. Considering the geographic limitations that place great importance on the availability of quality care, telehealth can play a huge role in serving these populations.

Additional, telehealth can improve patient outcomes through advanced monitoring, cognitive capabilities, clinical decision support features, and the execution of life-saving and evidence-based critical care protocols, just to name a few innovations. The first step in the continued development and advancement of telehealth is for private and public payers to consistently cover these services and set reimbursement rates at parity with in-person fee schedules.

We can do more to remove cost and complexity in the health care system, balanced with improving access to care for those struggling to get the care they need. As providers, we must continue to identify and remove barriers to care where possible.

We owe it to our patients.

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