Disparities in healthcare are still prevalent today, and the recent pandemic has only created more barriers for patients in vulnerable communities. Recent research has shown that these patients have limited access to care and that these limits often lead to various adverse outcomes. However, the spread of COVID-19 also rapidly accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and technology throughout the healthcare industry. Many of these solutions provide benefits for both patients and providers. Below are the top three ways Healthcare organizations can leverage such digital platforms to address inequities and close gaps in care.
Clear and effective communication is a critical component needed to provide optimal patient outcomes. Communication breakdowns can lead to severe issues for both providers and patients alike. About 80% of medical errors involve miscommunication between patients and their providers or among care teams (1).
Communication breakdowns are an even more pressing issue for vulnerable communities. Several cultural factors make clear communication more challenging such as language barriers and low levels of literacy. These factors often negatively impact patient outcomes and even prevent patients from seeking the care they need. A recent study found that 66% of non-English speaking patients shared that they have barriers to access. Another 20% shared that they did not seek care for fear of not understanding (2).
These statistics show that the need for communication solutions is clear. Fortunately, there are digital platforms that healthcare organizations can leverage to improve communication throughout the care continuum.
Technology can also break down barriers for those who lack transportation and those living in rural areas with limited access to healthcare. According to the United States Census Bureau, 60 million Americans live in rural areas. Unfortunately, these places have been heavily impacted by the recent provider shortage. As of March 2021, more than 60% of primary care health professional shortages are in rural areas (3). This issue limits access to care for millions and also impacts the additional 3.6 million patients who do not obtain medical care due to lack of transportation (4). It often creates new hurdles for patients with barriers such as limited mobility or cognitive disorders as well.
Digital platforms that enable integrated virtual care are helping healthcare systems close these gaps. Organizations can leverage virtual visits to reach patients no matter their location, helping better meet the growing need for healthcare. Virtual appointments expand the number of providers available to patients no matter their location. The best platforms also enable the secure digital exchange of information, including signature capture, the sharing of test results, and educational materials.
Ninety million Americans have low levels of health literacy (5). This group includes patients with lower socioeconomic status, language barriers, and the elderly. These factors all impact care outcomes for this group—patients with low levels of literacy. Recent research has found that adults with low literacy levels have higher healthcare costs, more hospital visits, and longer hospital stays than those with higher levels.These populations often face multiple barriers to access that make reaching and engaging these patients a challenge, but technology can help. Healthcare organizations that leverage digital platforms can help in a couple of different ways.
Improving communication, breaking down geographic barriers and driving program enrollment starts with the right partnership. The next step towards becoming a more equitable healthcare organization is to find a partner with industry experience, a proven solution set, and team clinical experts who understand the current challenges. The most effective solutions are designed to enhance clinical collaboration, streamline workflows and transform the patient experience. Learn more about QliqSOFT's mission and how our patient engagement solutions can help you close care gaps for vulnerable communities.
Brittanie is a passionate marketing specialist and content creator from Washington state. She has a background in both education and healthcare. Brittanie enjoys researching, crafting, and sharing stories that highlight how modern technology is transforming the healthcare industry.
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