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Financial Concerns Are Not The Primary Barrier To Health Care In America

It’s not just about money – Americans Face Barriers to Health Care Beyond Cost.  A study released recently in Health Services Research found that while financial concerns prevent 18% of Americans from getting needed health care, more Americans – 21% – delay health care for nonfinancial reasons.  These barriers include getting to the doctor, getting a timely appointment and taking time out of other responsibilities.  Lead author Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D. adds what he believes is the crux of the issue: “We need to think about how to organize the existing resources we have in ways that are going to improve access to care.”

In Would You Lie to Your Own Doctor?, Connie Midey of The Arizona Republic reports on a common practice that can “compromise [doctors'] ability to diagnose and treat patients effectively.”  The reason? Many patients are less than truthful with doctors about their health habits.  “Failing to volunteer information can be as dangerous as lying,” Midey writes.  “Such failure to be frank risks minor to serious consequences, such as exposing others to a virus, suffering a drug interaction, developing a preventable chronic condition and delaying treatment until the late stages of a disease.”

Mary Whaley, on Manage My Practice, points out that patients have questions of their own.  Her post, Six Reasons Why Your Doctor’s Office Doesn’t Call You Back and a Few Solutions, lists some likely causes for the increasing number of phone calls at physician practices.  Her suggestions for improvement range from simplifying prescription processes to improving physician-patient communication.

Offering simple guidelines – or explaining the basic ground rules of engagement as Jessie Gruman calls them – can help patients and clinicians overcome some of these barriers.  A straight-forward, fill-in-the-blank guide could be used by any clinic or health care practice to help patients with common questions and problems like those mentioned in the above posts.  For example:

  • What’s the best way to make an appointment?
  • Where are you located and how do I get there?
  • What’s the payment process and who do I contact about billing questions?
  • Who should I call after-hours or in case of an emergency?  What are your hours?

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

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