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Health Care Has to Change the Status Quo to Improve Access (Part 4: Affordability)

By Jerrod Ullah, CEO & Founder

What does it cost to stay healthy? For many people living right here in the U.S., the answer is “way too much.” From rising care delivery and medication costs to increasing health insurance premiums, health care is certainly not exempt from inflation — and accessing it is often determined simply by a person’s ability to pay for it. Surveys consistently show that lack of money to pay for medical expenses always tops the list of financial concerns for Americans.

I recently began a 5-part blog series addressing what the International Journal for Equity describes as the 5 A’s of access. In my previous posts, I touched on accessibility, availability and accommodation. Today, I’d like for us to take a look at affordability and how it can affect a person’s ability to obtain the care they need.

Affordability, as related to health care, can be described as the relationship between health care prices and a patient’s ability to pay them. If a patient is unable to pay, that would be considered a health disparity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies health disparities as, “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.” The word within this explanation that stands out to me is “preventable.” With so much research showing the correlation between low-income populations and poor health outcomes, what can we do to help prevent this and make health care more obtainable?

At HealthTalk A.I., we are driven to help our provider clients advance their mission to assist and empower patients in need. With this objective in mind, we constantly look for ways to help our providers streamline workflows in order to scale delivery but also to find cost efficiencies. We work hard to advance our platform to deliver the most effective tools for communicating with patients. Our providers, for example, are able to promote health literacy in ways that weren’t previously available. When patients are educated, they sometimes find that health care isn’t out of reach, after all. Sometimes it’s a matter of automating a scheduled callback with a nurse to explain generic drug options or to help them navigate their out-of-pocket costs. Other times it might be having the platform schedule a call with a social worker to educate the patient on financial-assistance programs they may qualify for.

Digital care is another way we can make health care more affordable for patients. Expectations have changed over the past decade and people are used to getting more things done from the comfort of their homes. Convenience technology such as Telehealth can be a less expensive option for both practices and patients.

Lastly, patients themselves are a very underutilized resource. In order for us to continue to address the affordability crisis, we need to look more to them for guidance. When we meet patients where they are — and give them a voice — we might just uncover new ways to make health care more affordable.

If you have any thoughts on how you think healthcare organizations and HIT companies can work together to make health care access more affordable for patients, I’d love to hear them!

Stay tuned for part 5, where I’ll introduce my 5th and final “A” of Access. And if you missed parts 1 and 2, or 3 you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Interested in learning more? Contact us to discuss your patient engagement and access priorities!

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