How to Improve Access to Healthcare with IRIS
It’s no secret that access to quality healthcare is a challenge for many Americans. According to a Gallup survey, 46 million Americans say that they wouldn’t be able to afford quality care if they needed it today. Convenience and availability are also key challenges. It can be hard for some patients to schedule appointments during working hours and many have to travel long distances to receive care.
For healthcare providers, ongoing labor challenges make it difficult to provide the streamlined, convenient experience that patients want and need. Addressing the practical elements of providing value-based care, such as billing and employee training, can be challenging. As a result, many providers are left with a treatment-based model that’s often frustrating for the provider and the patient.
This doesn’t have to be the case. With innovative healthcare technology, it’s possible to improve access to healthcare and solve the frustrations of patients and providers alike. Read on to learn how.
The Factors Impacting Patient Access to Care
Cost is the primary factor impacting patient access to care, and the problem is worse for those in disadvantaged groups. The Gallup survey found that, while 18% of all Americans couldn’t afford quality care, the numbers were higher among Black adults (29%) and Hispanic adults (21%). Thirty-five percent of those earning less than $24,000 per year said that they went without care over the past 12 months, compared to only 7% of those who earn more than $180,000 per year.
Beyond cost, physical access is also a common barrier. People with disabilities face transportation and access challenges when seeking out care. And nearly a quarter of people living in rural areas say finding good doctors and hospitals is a major challenge, compared to 18% of those in urban areas and 9% of those in suburban areas.
Convenience is also a barrier, as many patients are seeking the consumer-centric level of service that they receive from other buying experiences. If wait times are too long, or if the scheduling process is inefficient, patients are likely to put off care or seek it elsewhere. According to KPMG, when wait times for appointments exceed 10 days, the patient loss rate can increase from 9% to 18% in primary care, and 9% to 23% in specialty care.
Access Barriers Hinder Preventive Care
Healthcare access challenges are particularly troubling when dealing with chronic illnesses. Six in ten Americans live with some sort of chronic disease, which is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. These chronic diseases reduce quality of life, increase the burden on our healthcare system, and are the primary drivers of spiraling healthcare costs. And in many cases, they’re preventable through clinical preventive strategies. But many people aren’t receiving that care. In 2015, only 8% of U.S. adults 35 and older received all recommended, high-priority, appropriate clinical preventive services.
When providers are able to improve access to care, they can reduce the incidence and severity of these chronic diseases. Here’s how access to preventive care can improve outcomes for diabetics:
- Cholesterol management can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20% to 50%.
- Patient education and regular foot exams can prevent up to 85% of diabetes-related amputations.
- 90% of diabetes-related blindness can be prevented through regular eye exams and timely treatment.
The data shows that when patients receive comprehensive diabetic care, it can have a significant impact on their overall wellness. So, what can providers do to improve access to the kind of care their patients need?
The Role of Technology in Improving Access to Healthcare
Innovative technologies—ranging from wearables to high-resolution cameras—offer a solution to access issues. New technology and innovative approaches help facilitate preventive care strategies and streamline the patient experience, making care more accessible.
For instance, one large healthcare system incorporated wearables into its digital glucose monitoring program to support integrated care delivery and provide two-way communication between patients and providers. Each patient’s care team gained real-time, automated access to data from the glucose monitor to inform treatment decisions and coaching on preventive care. They could proactively follow up with the patient when needed, instead of waiting for the next scheduled appointment. As a result, providers were able to effectively double their capacity for managing diabetes patients.
Improving Access to Retinal Screenings
Another technology improving outcomes for patients with diabetes is retinal imaging technology. As noted before, diabetic retinopathy is 90% preventable. Advances in retinal imaging technology are making it easier for providers to connect their patients with this critical care without increasing complexity for patients or staff.
Typically, providers must refer diabetic patients to an ophthalmologist for retinal screenings to monitor diabetes-related eye diseases. It’s at times inconvenient for the patient and often leads them to put it off or not get the screening at all. And even when patients do follow through with their appointment, the primary care provider may not receive their exam results preventing them from truly understanding their patient’s overall health. With teleretinal imaging technology, primary care physicians and other providers can perform retinal screenings as part of their regular services.
In just a 19-month period, Gateway Medical Associates, a large practice based in Pennsylvania, was able to save more than 200 patients from the advanced stages of the sight-threatening disease with innovative retinal imaging technology. By using IRIS, a leading teleretinal screening solution, primary care providers and their staff can perform retinal screenings in the office quickly, often without needing to dilate the patient’s pupils.
The training and support provided by IRIS enabled each provider to incorporate the screening into their workflows. As a result, they have improved quality scores from 30% to nearly 90%, and PCPs, specialists, and patients are more engaged with one another.
Healthcare Access FAQs
How can healthcare access be improved?
Taking cues from the examples described in this article, providers can improve patient access to care by leveraging digital technologies to deliver value-based care. Healthcare providers should explore improvement strategies like expanding the scope of services they offer, using electronic health records and data integration, and increasing preventative screenings to make quality care more accessible to their patients.
For example, a tool like IRIS can be used in mobile clinics to reduce the travel burden on the patient. It can also be used by non-clinical providers, such as pharmacists, that are available outside of normal business hours, to make scheduling more convenient for patients.
Why do we need to improve access to healthcare?
Improving access to care is critical to achieving every major healthcare objective. Improving patient wellness and satisfaction, maintaining provider financial security, and complying with quality programs all depend on improving patient healthcare access.
When patients have better access to quality care, it helps improve the healthcare system as a whole. Providers can proactively prevent and manage illnesses before they lead to serious health crises. Fewer patients need to seek care in emergency rooms. And it’s easier to manage the costs, both direct and indirect, associated with healthcare.
Start Improving Access with IRIS
IRIS has helped providers around the country improve patient care through the early detection of sight-threatening diseases. We help healthcare organizations make retinal screenings more accessible and improve outcomes for everyone along the way.
With the IRIS Solution, you can choose from a variety of fundus cameras to find one that fits your practice best. We’ll provide the staff training and virtual support to make integration seamless and ensure you reap the full benefits of incorporating retinal imaging in your services.
To learn more about how IRIS helps you improve patient access to care, connect with us today.
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