Getting and staying healthy shouldn’t be difficult, particularly at a time when we know so much about medicine. And yet far too many Americans struggle to get the healthcare they deserve. Of course, there isn’t one singular reason behind this phenomenon that is occurring across the country. Instead, it’s a combination of factors conspiring against making healthcare more accessible,
Case in point: Sometimes, poor healthcare is due to a lack of insurance on the part of the patient.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 10% of the population does not have health insurance. Within a population of 330 million, that equates to 33 million children and adults who aren’t getting seen, diagnosed, or treated. Without insurance to support them, people may be hesitant to visit their physicians.
Staffing Shortages Aren’t Helping Make Healthcare More Accessible
Another issue that regularly interferes with access to healthcare is the labor shortage occurring in the medical community. Research from Duquesne University suggests that within three years, the health community will have to make do with nearly 30,000 fewer nurse practitioners. However, the American healthcare sector desperately needs these nursing professionals. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Professionals representing other medical disciplines from nursing to neurology just aren’t being replaced. As the New York Times noted, this is a worldwide crisis. Even if young people get into studying medicine today, many won’t be ready to practice for many years. So sometimes it’s difficult to get appointments. Our healthcare providers are all operating under duress.
Rising cost is the final problem related to limited healthcare accessibility. Those who have insurance may pay less for visits, emergency treatment, or prescriptions. But that doesn’t mean they can afford anything beyond preventive care. Copays and deductibles can be notoriously high, leading many patients to forgo helpful drugs or fall out of compliance.
Moving Healthcare Deeper Into the 21st Century with Solutions
These are troubling concerns. However, they’re prompting some clever thinking and innovation.
Some companies are viewing the healthcare conundrum as an opportunity for resourceful thinking. Below are several businesses that are standing up for what’s right—and standing out in the process.
1. Telehealth Software Providers: Making Healthcare More Accessible
The list of telehealth software and system providers is quite extensive. However, all those providers have something in common. They are searching for methods to make it easier for people to see doctors.
One strategy to reduce the need to travel for care is through virtual medicine. Over a secure portal, patients can “meet” with their doctors and receive feedback. Best of all, both parties are discovering that video visits are quite adequate for a number of conditions.
For instance, UCLA health recommends virtual appointments for common colds, UTIs, some chronic conditions, flu, refill check-ins, and occasional follow-ups.
The point is clear. Telemedicine can fill in a significant gap. It lowers many barriers to accessibility and can cost about half the out-of-pocket cost compared to an in-office visit.
2. CPAP.com: Giving People in Need the Breathing Space They Deserve
It’s been a rough road for patients needing CPAP devices to manage the ongoing treatment of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. New CPAP devices can be notoriously hard to find today following global supply chain disruptions that started during the pandemic.
CPAP manufacturers couldn’t manufacture enough machines to meet demand without competing for raw materials against industries such as large automotive and cellular communications companies. For example, semiconductor chips are among the most hard-to-find materials. Manufacturers use them in virtually all modern electronics. Cellular modems in CPAP devices rely on these chips to transmit a patient’s sleep therapy data to their doctor.
To overcome these challenges, CPAP.com prioritized communication to inform patients about supply chain issues and machine availability. Alternative sleep apnea therapy devices, such as oral mouth guards, were also brought online for those seeking alternatives to CPAP.
The company also began offering a simplified CPAP device that provides the therapy needed without the cellular modem. Instead, SD cards are encoded with the information. The data is then manually uploaded to the cloud. Through this clever bypassing of the chip shortage, CPAP.com maintained enough machine inventory when most other online retailers struggled to maintain supply to meet demand.
3. Apple: Personalizing Healthcare in Creative Ways Through Wearables
Approximately half of all cell phone users own Apple iPhones. Many have purchased Apple Watches, too. Apple knows this, of course. It’s why they’re starting to invest in engineering software to allow Apple Watch users to capture personal health data.
A great example of this is the newly FDA-cleared “Afib history” feature. This Apple-exclusive feature will soon be available for Apple Watch users. While wearing their latest Apple Watches, users can track their heart rhythms. They can scan for anomalies in the data. They can then share any concerns with physicians.
Apple isn’t the first company to dabble in this space. Nonetheless, it has enough big-brand cache to propel sizable publicity. Therefore, more consumers will likely hear about Apple’s health-related features for its devices. As such, Apple may be able to encourage more children, teens, and grown-ups to pay attention to their health and wellness findings.
4. Quio: Closing Gaps Between Patients and Providers
What happens when a physician prescribes injectable therapies for a patient? The patient may never take it. Or, the patient may take the medication at irregular intervals. Overall, injectable adherence rates hover at approximately 50%. Perhaps worst of all, the physician is left out of the equation and doesn’t realize what’s happening.
Quio has made its mark trying to resolve this concern. Dedicated to eliminating this communication and adherence gap, Quio stands out for its innovative medicine adherence program. Patients who opt into Quio through their healthcare plans receive an at-home kit.
The kit sends real-time messages to their doctors regarding their injectables. As a result, their providers can more easily monitor them from afar (and intervene if necessary).
Already used by both Medicare Advantage and Medicaid, Quio touts itself as helping with preventive medicine. After all, holding patients accountable motivates them to take their medical directives more seriously. Accordingly, they may be less likely to experience serious complications related to non-compliant behaviors and low adherence.
Making healthcare more accessible doesn’t have to be something that only those who are fortunate can enjoy. Certainly, getting healthcare into the hands of everyone is a challenge. However, it’s not one that can’t be overcome. It just takes a willingness to think differently and experiment.
Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thanks!