Connecting the Unconnected
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By Lee Horner, Stratus Video President, Telehealth
Many patient populations may experience feeling unconnected to healthcare due to lack of convenient and timely access to healthcare. To access healthcare, a patient traditionally needs to have:
- Transportation: Ability to arrange and use transportation to access care, especially when the care facility may be at a distance. The Journal of Community Health published an analysis which indicated that the lack or inaccessibility of transportation could result in less health care utilization, lack of regular medical care, and missed medical appointments, particularly for those from lower economic backgrounds.
- Time: Ability to take time off from work to attend to healthcare needs. A Florida Atlantic University study found that families with less ability to afford unpaid time off were more likely to lack the benefit of paid sick leave. As published in Health Affairs, those without paid sick leave were 3.0 times more likely to forgo medical care for themselves and 1.6 times more likely to forgo medical care for their family vs. those with paid sick leave benefits. The lowest-income group of workers without paid sick leave were at the highest risk of delaying and forgoing medical care for themselves and their family members.
- Trust: Confidence in the ability to communicate with a provider in patient’s preferred language and reflective of the patient’s level of healthcare literacy. According to an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, patients who did not receive professional interpretation at admission or both admission/discharge had an increase in their LOS (length of stay) of between 0.75 and 1.47 days, vs. patients received interpretation services on both day of admission and discharge. Patients receiving interpretation at admission and/or discharge were less likely than patients receiving no interpretation to be readmitted with 30 days.
- Team: Support from family, friends, neighbors, and caregivers who can help the patient feel less isolated during one’s In an article published in the New York Times, Dr. Khullar conveyed that social isolation, especially in the elderly, may have significant physical, mental, and emotional consequences. Amongst the studies highlighted, Dr. Khullar highlights a finding that socially isolated individuals had a 30% higher risk of dying in the next seven years. Another finding highlighted associates social isolation with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.
As indicated above, geographic, cultural, and social isolation may hinder patients from being able to access care in a timely and convenient manner and adhere to a prescribed treatment plan. For the unconnected, video-based telehealth platforms can help patients access the care they need, when they need it. With telehealth, these patients can participate in a virtual visit and be linked to providers and specialists who can deliver care remotely over devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. This gives patients more convenient and timely access to care and comfort – while providing opportunities to reduce costs involved with arranging for transportation and/or time off.