Some Challenges That Impact Patient Access to Healthcare

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) has completely changed the landscape of healthcare industry and the way physicians treat their patients. The new systems provide improved patient access to healthcare and allow patients and their families to take charge of their own health. With EHR-integrated medical transcription services, physicians can quickly generate medical documentation that can be viewed by patients also. It improves patient engagement and satisfaction. However, many patients across the country do not have easy access to healthcare.


What are some of the challenges involved?

  • Limited availability of appointments: Majority of healthcare units have fixed working or consultation hours and this may not be useful for everyone. Patients need convenient hours to visit doctors outside of their work. So, healthcare organizations are now trying to expand their office hours. Some organizations are using health IT and connected health that allows patients to get medical advice without coming to the office. Telehealth or Telemedicine is one such innovation that allows patients to seek medical assistance without coming into the clinic or hospital. This system is highly useful for emergency cases to connect with the doctor. Organizations can adjust their office hours to provide patients more easy access to the clinicians at any time.
  • Clinician shortage in rural areas: Shortage of clinicians in rural areas is a major concern in many countries. According to the American Hospital Association, there are about 57 million Americans who live in rural areas. They also say that remote geographic location, small size, physician shortage and often constrained financial resources pose a unique challenge for rural hospitals. Healthcare organizations have started tapping telemedicine to close care gaps caused by geographic barriers. Direct-to-consumer telemedicine allows patients to make use of their own devices like smartphones or computers to video call a provider. Many smaller facilities in rural areas use telemedicine to connect with experts in more urban areas. This helps patients avoid travelling to faraway places to receive treatment or specialized care. Patients in rural areas also struggle with shortage of physicians and the situation is much severe than urban area shortage issues. According to National Rural Health Association statistics, the patient to primary care physicians ratio in rural areas is 39.8 physicians for 100,000 people compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 patients in urban areas. As per a report by University of Nebraska Medical Centre, clinicians’ shortage issues are plaguing rural areas across the country. Although primary care clinicians’ access is up 11 percent from 2008 doctors are still bracing to get hit hard by the growing national clinicians shortage issues. Healthcare professionals are now looking for policy changes that would help channel more providers to rural areas. Some visa waivers could encourage foreign-born but American-educated providers to serve in rural areas.
  • Transportation barriers: Patients can easily fix an appointment with their doctors whenever they want but transportation barriers can keep them from visiting their physicians, especially for people with disabilities or those who cannot obtain transportation to the clinician’s office. According to AHA statistics, around 3.5 million patients do not have access to proper care as they don’t have transportation to the physician’s place. Transportation is a critical social determinant of health that has recently gained nationwide attention. In 2018’s HIMSS conference rideshare giants Uber and Lyft announced plans to close care gaps emerging from medical transportation woes. Uber introduced its own healthcare offshoot and Lyft partnered with an EHR vendor to help healthcare providers and patients to connect with rides to medical appointments.
  • Limited education regarding care site: It is important for organizations to remove all obstacles that prevent patients from getting to the clinic. This will ensure that the patients reach the right place. This is very important to integrate alternative treatment sites into their repertories. Patients can access care at an urgent care centre, a retail clinic, a micro hospital, a freestanding emergency department and numerous other emerging treatment facilities. It is important for medical practices to deliver proper patient education which enables patients to identify providers ideal for certain healthcare needs. According to a February 2017 survey from CityMD, many patients do not know where they should receive care for various symptoms. 46 percent of respondents correctly selected urgent care as the appropriate choice for a scenario in which a child is suffering from 104 degree fever.

Medical professionals should educate their patients on the specific uses of different care sites. Clinicians and offices and hospitals should display information in their own facilities and circulate patient education materials. Providing proper patient care and accurate medical records is highly important for quality patient care. According to the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity, accurate and high integrity documentation requires collaboration between physicians and the organization’s documentation scheme or with medical transcription services.
It is important to ensure that the medical records are accurate and reliable. Medical errors can occur anywhere – it may be in medication, surgery, after care, lab reports etc and it can even lead to death. Below are some tips to follow to ensure more accurate medical documentation.

  • Ask your patients if they have any questions. Ensure that the patients are sharing all necessary personal health information.
  • Physicians and surgeons treat patients and create records according to the strict policies of EHR. But the duty of the physician is to focus on their patients and not on documenting records. EHR documentation could be outsourced to a scribe or a good medical transcription company. Only the task of approving the entries should be given to the doctors.
  • In the EHR system, bring a balance between structured and unstructured data.
  • Standardization of general layout is important. It helps physicians to spend less time searching for the right button and it also minimizes the chances of errors.

Providing the right care at the right time is very important. Today, many healthcare organizations hire reliable medical transcription services to ensure streamlined documentation. They offer customized services at affordable rates and also help physicians and other healthcare professionals to focus more on providing quality patient care and services.