By Jerrod Ullah, CEO & Founder
A few weeks back, I decided that I would write a 5-part series addressing what the International Journal for Equity describes as the 5 A’s of access. Why? Because patients and providers alike are faced with many challenges related to them.
Whether you’re a provider (on the supply side) trying to scale services needed by your population or a patient (on the demand side) feeling like it’s too difficult to locate and engage providers to find and schedule services, we can all agree that health care access needs to be more accommodating.
As I mentioned in part 1, access is multi-faceted, involving not only staff head count and correct resources to serve populations, but it also depends on meeting the needs of the patient even before they seek out services. With that post, I focused on Accessibility barriers to health care services. And now, I’d like us to take a look at Accommodation and the effects it has on accessing care.
Accommodation is the relationship between how health care services are offered and how patients are able to interact and attain those services. Providers must consider their patient population’s needs. This is important because it affects the patient’s ability to engage. And it's difficult because patients’ needs and preferences change over time. This means a provider organization needs to be flexible enough to offer new services almost as the demand for the services peak. If you fail to accommodate patients’ needs as they change, patients will seek care elsewhere.
For example, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that 2 percent of adults aged 45-54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55-64, 25 percent for those aged 65-74, and 50 percent for those who are 75 and older.
Examples of accommodations that would improve access for these patients would be to provide powerful and visually accessible communication through the use of sign language, the implementation of important communication technologies such as secure, bi-directional web-chat and texting, as well as cultural awareness trainings for health care staff.
Another prevalent barrier we must accommodate for is language. For example, many of our health center partners widely serve Hispanic, Chinese and Korean populations. To help these practices, we provide them with a patient engagement platform that supports all languages. This removes language barriers, allowing them to communicate with their patients in their preferred languages. Not only does this promote inclusivity and health equity, it drastically improves the patient experience and, in some cases, makes all the difference in being able to connect and provide care.
We also recently introduced multi-room Telehealth. This is giving our practices the ability to invite additional providers or staff members to Telehealth calls. Some of our health centers are leveraging this feature to invite interpreters when needed.
Beyond language, another common challenge is, unfortunately, technology. Although the COVID pandemic has increased the adoption of many healthcare technologies, it has also isolated many of our most vulnerable. Providing capabilities and services such as digital front doors and virtual waiting rooms or virtual follow-up appointments is all great if they’re easy to use. But the fact is, many of these offerings just overwhelm patients, especially many seniors. I like to think that I’m not that old, but even I have a hard time juggling all the different patient portals and apps being forced on me by different providers (and of course, each have different password rules). Thankfully, there is a better way. Healthtalk A.I. was founded to develop convenience technology to accommodate patients wherever and whoever they are — making it easier to engage, seek, and get the access they deserve.
Stay tuned for part 3, where I’ll introduce another one of the 5 A’s of Access. If you have any thoughts on how you think healthcare organizations and HIT companies can make better accommodations for patients, I’d love to hear them!
Interested in learning more? Contact us to discuss your patient engagement and access priorities.