As healthcare costs continues to rise, there are better solutions to help patients efficiently navigate an often-challenging system of care.
Healthcare costs are increasing for everyone, but some healthcare issues are more challenging than others and lead to even higher costs.
with co-morbid issues, as an example, healthcare costs tend to rise because there is more than one issue to treat. But often the first challenge is to recognize there is more than one issue present that requires clinical attention.
For example, if you are an individual with heart disease, the illness is challenging on its own. You may not realize there is also a strong likelihood you’re depressed and/or anxious. It’s important to recognize each illness separately but treat comprehensively. If you don’t identify each issue – and treat them accordingly – you will likely not feel better or progress in getting better. In fact, you’ll likely get worse.
Having to seek out the right treatment for each distinct illness often means a rise in healthcare costs for a variety of reasons. Given the pressure in the immediate moment to seek out care and the accessibility and convenience of emergency facilities, emergency departments are often the first stop. Those with substance use issues are 30% more likely to access care through emergency facilities. But emergency departments are more expensive.
Further, a series of social determinants have an identified impact on health and may result in more costs to the system and the person, thereby impeding treatment; these include lack of transportation, lack of access to fresh food, challenges with gaining and keeping a job, loss of insurance, and other challenges. As a patient’s out of pocket healthcare expense rises, mental and emotional health may suffer. As people and families face mental and emotional challenges, social determinants can also be negatively impacted. As social determinants are affected, physical and medical aspects of an individual’s health are affected. These challenges may then further negatively impact an individual’s lifestyle. And the cycle continues.
Understanding how to navigate healthcare and get to the right health provider can also be a challenge. Even for those who have insurance, difficulties arise with straightforwardly accessing resources for significant health issues, so patients often turn to emergency departments. Frequent visits to the emergency department may result in long wait times, high co-pays, and incomplete care. For those without insurance, in addition to the above challenges, the public often pays for inefficient and costly care. But in reality, getting the patient to the right caregiver at the right time in the right place would cost far less and result in better outcomes.
So, what are the solutions? There are several, and they take time, patience and a community of committed citizens and providers who are willing to work together.
First, preventive care. Identifying and participating in healthy lifestyle choices early is a way to augment costs later.
Second, education. Helping people understand how to navigate health and the healthcare system and even take the best care of themselves is paramount to successful treatment.
Third, screening and early identification in a primary care setting. When issues are identified by a primary doctor, it can help avoid expensive treatments later, such as emergency care.
Fourth, access to care. The more we can provide clear and rapid access to care and ease the burden of moving all over the place to seek out care, the better we can help the patient.
These solutions are not easy, but are worth the time and effort. At Blaze Advisors, we value community and working together for the long-term health of patients.