How Mobile Integrated Healthcare Improves Patient Access

Good patient access is a vital pillar of a properly functioning healthcare system. Robust patient access reduces super-utilizers, lowers hospital readmission rates, and adequately distributes public health services throughout the community. Indeed, care that improves patient access uplifts the entire community.

Mobile integrated healthcare uncovers the overlooked parts of healthcare in a community. Good community health requires that the entire area have access to healthcare, not just those who can afford it or happen to be in better circumstances. In this article, we’ll discuss why patient access is essential and how mobile integrated healthcare improves access for all citizens.

Why Patient Access Is Important for Overall Community Health

Aside from the desire to improve the lives of others, there are practical reasons that good patient access is essential for the community.

Healthcare is a nuanced and complex system; however, for the sake of understanding, let’s imagine that all healthcare is as simple as a physician’s clinic. The clinic opens in the morning and begins seeing patients—there’s organization and flow to the office. Patients know to sign in, wait until their name is called, and then return to be seen.

But imagine if that system was broken. If there was no organization. The more variables in place, the more likely something will go off track. If the patients no longer sign in, then the physician doesn’t know who’s there, and before we know it, the whole clinic is struggling to treat people.

A similar thing happens in healthcare when patients don’t have access. These overlooked patients present a variable. Often, these patients over-rely on 911 and the emergency department. Many of these low-access patients have chronic diseases that will become increasingly severe due to lack of care.

What’s the result? A strain on the greater healthcare system, a strain that makes it difficult for the physicians and nurses to treat the patients who do have access to care.

What are the Reasons Patients Struggle with Healthcare Access?

Let’s review some of the main reasons patients struggle to find and maintain access to healthcare. Different areas will have different health access struggles. This section tries to touch on some universal patient access issues.

Here are three of the top reasons patients won’t access the healthcare system:

  1. Lack of transportation
  2. Lack of funds or health insurance
  3. Lack of knowledge

When you look at these issues, it’s easy to see why 911 is overused in many areas, even when there is no emergency. The ambulance provides transportation, the ER must treat all patients regardless of insurance, and everyone knows how to dial 911.

Though this method is simple, anyone would agree that it’s not the best system for healthcare, nor is it the best for the patient.

Below, we’ll look at these reasons in greater detail, exploring some nuances. Then, we’ll discuss how MIH-CP provides a solution.

Health Access Barrier: Lack of Transportation

First, many patients struggle with transportation. This could be for many reasons. Some patients have poor eyesight or chronic diseases that limit their ability to drive to physician appointments.

Some patients simply don’t have the money to afford transportation, such as the homeless. Others live in rural areas and find it difficult to make frequent long trips to health checkups.

For all these reasons, safe and reliable transportation is one of the gates preventing many patients from having easy healthcare access.

Lack of Patient Funds or Health Insurance

A lack of funds or health insurance can often accompany a lack of transportation. However, even for patients who do have adequate transportation, health insurance can still sometimes be a factor.

Those who don’t have health coverage will be less likely to contact the health system and will certainly be less likely to maintain regular health appointments. A lack of insurance is one of the obstacles that mobile integrated healthcare works to overcome.

Lack of Knowledge about Certain Healthcare Programs

Another reason patients’ access is low in some areas is that they simply don’t know about the programs available to them. There could be some great resources available, even some that are free; however, if the patient doesn’t know about the program, they won’t be able to participate.

Many people might assume that advertising for healthcare is similar to advertising for anything else—programs need to get the word out. The problems start with some programs that may already be working from a volunteer or non-profit foundation. If this is the case, then there is often simply no money left over for advertising.

The Many Ways that Mobile Integrated Healthcare Improves Patient Access

Now that we’ve covered some barriers to patient care, let’s discuss how mobile integrated healthcare can solve these problems. While mobile integrated healthcare isn’t magic, the care model has proved effective in many communities across the United States.

Here’s how mobile integrated healthcare improves patient access:

  • They have a clear view of the neediest patients
  • MIH is good at facilitating connections
  • MIH builds an effective community care network

Let’s look at these points in more depth.

Improving Patient Access via Direct Mobile Response and Triage

First responders on ambulances and community paramedic units know where the neediest patients live. These may be homeless patients, or they could be those struggling with substance abuse. Responders are often called to them monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily.

Unfortunately, the emergency response system has morphed from its true design—not only do the patients misusing the system not receive the care they deserve, but there are also greater delays for those patients experiencing a life-threatening emergency. This is yet another example of how poor patient access for some is equal to poor patient access for all.

What’s the point? EMS and mobile integrated healthcare teams are in a unique position to contact patients who don’t have good access to healthcare. They can direct these patients to available healthcare programs or enroll them in the local mobile integrated health programs—and they can remove the burden of transportation.

Regardless of the route, MIH teams can solve one of the problems we discuss: lack of knowledge. These mobile health teams can be built-in megaphones that alert patients to the program and help direct people to the appropriate resources at the proper times.

Mobile Integrated Healthcare Improves Access by Facilitating Connections that Wouldn’t be Possible

Second, mobile integrated healthcare programs improve patient access by acting as the middleman to other connections. How does this work? Let’s consider something like primary care physicians (PCP).

There is a shortage of primary care physicians in many parts of the country. In the areas where patients can find them, there are long wait times and sometimes long travel on the patient’s behalf. All these variables (as we mentioned in the first section, variables aren’t always helpful in healthcare) add up to many patients missing out on good, regular primary care.

The lack of primary care is more important than most people initially realize. Why? Because a patient’s primary care physician often acts as the captain of their healthcare ship. The PCP will direct the patient to see a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, or an ophthalmologist.

The primary care physician (PCP) is the motherboard of the patient’s care—without good access to the PCP, everything else falls apart.

So, how does MIH-CP help? Mobile integrated healthcare teams will create a line from the patient to the physician. The community paramedic can facilitate live video calls, perform a physical exam, and act as the physicians’ virtual hands during the appointment. In this way, MIH can help improve patient access to primary care.

Mobile Integrated Healthcare Builds an Effective Network for the Patient

Finally, through partnerships within the community, mobile integrated health programs can offer patients reduced costs while improving the distribution of resources to a given patient. Let’s look at this from two angles.

First, partnerships in a community (between EMS and hospital or mental health facilities and police departments) can reduce the overall cost to the patient. Sometimes, these partnerships can eliminate expenses. How? Because both partners have something to gain from providing better care to the patient, even if the care is free.

For example, hospitals might want to alleviate penalties by reducing readmission rates, and EMS companies might want to reduce the cost of super-utilizers. Hospital, EMS, and the patient benefit – this is called a win-win-win.

And second, mobile integrated healthcare gives patients more options when they reach out for help. They can dispatch mental health professionals, rehab teams, and paramedics depending on the situation. Not only do patients have more access, but they have access to the right resources.

Final Thoughts: How MIH will Continue to Improve Patient Access  

Patient access to healthcare affects each corner of society. Poor patient access for some often dilutes the quality of patient care for all. Mobile integrated healthcare can improve patient access by eliminating the burden of transportation for the patient, connecting people with physicians, and reducing costs through partnerships.

Contact Julota to see how their interoperable software platform can connect community health programs, improve data collection, and help MIH teams deliver better care.