Healthcare Equity: The Importance of Creating More Equal Patient Outcomes
In the last several years, a growing awareness of the relationship between socio-economic factors and health outcomes has emerged within the larger healthcare industry. Different segments of societal life such as employment, education or geographic location are no longer seen as distinct or separate from healthcare. For instance, leaders in healthcare now regularly cite the impact that issues such as access to quality nutrition, housing or education can have an impact on patient outcomes.
One significant result of this is the stark realization that major discrepancies exist amongst patient outcomes when it comes to demographic segments such as race, gender, income level or geographic location. This is top of mind for executives, leaders, and administrators when forming healthcare strategies or policies. Because healthcare inequities can have disastrous effects on communities, health systems are working to help resolve inequalities and promote healthcare equity.
What are Healthcare Inequities?
Healthcare inequities are discrepancies that occur between related populations. For example, analysis and reporting by the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that Black Americans have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than other racial groups, and that black children have a 500% higher death rate from asthma when compared to white children.
Healthcare inequities can exist along geographic lines as well, such as urban/rural divides. Research has shown that rural counties have higher rates of premature deaths than urban counties, and that existing inequalities are accelerating. And Professors David Williams and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey have written that often a patient’s geographic location can be a greater indicator of their health outcomes than commonly measured metrics such as medical history, insurance status, or even biological DNA.
Disparities in healthcare are incredibly detrimental to communities because they negatively impact critical measurements of well-being such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate, or rates of a given illness or condition within a population. In addition to the obvious moral and social reasons to remedy healthcare inequalities and inequities, healthcare disparities are also responsible for rising healthcare expenditures and liabilities.
Healthcare Inequities and Rising Costs
Because healthcare inequalities lead to a poorer level of care for disadvantaged populations, healthcare inequality inevitably leads to more advanced pathologies and disorders, which require more expensive treatments and procedures to remedy them. Because of this, healthcare inequities have been shown to contribute to rising costs in healthcare.
Researchers found from just 2003 – 2006, an estimated $230 billion in direct medical expenditures and more than $1 trillion in indirect healthcare costs could be attributed to health disparities between racial and ethnic groups in the US.
Additionally, the rise in healthcare costs has been shown to exacerbate overall economic inequality in the US. For workers who receive their health insurance through their employer, rising health insurance premiums have been shown to both decrease and stagnant middle-class wages and take-home pay. In short, inequalities in healthcare can quickly lead to inequalities in other parts of life.
How Healthcare Can Be Made More Equitable
Pushing healthcare in America to a system that provides affordable, accessible, and adequate care to all US residents will require significant changes in the relationship between patients and providers. Healthcare is a microcosm of American society, in which power and resources are not allocated equally among races, sexes or class. While permanent and lasting change will likely require the power and partnership of leaders to reform health systems and networks, providers can make smaller changes today that will bring immediate results with their patients.
One way that providers can help those patients affected by health equity issues is promoting a greater range of affordable payment options such as zero- to low-interest payment plans (i.e. patient financing) to patients. According to our survey in August, more than half of consumers (58%) have delayed medical care to avoid a healthcare bill – and one-in-three have done so in the past year. Patient financing can help address the affordability gap seen in healthcare, but it must be done correctly.
Because patient financing is commonly distributed based on factors such as a patient’s individual credit score, financing is often denied to populations prone to disparities in healthcare outcomes. The lack of available financing prices populations out of essential care and increases the risk of future complications and advanced disease.
Providing fair and affordable financing to all groups and populations will help expand healthcare access and coverage across to disadvantaged groups.
What AccessOne is Doing to Help Patients Affected By Health Equity Issues
As a third-party patient financing partner, AccessOne works with health systems and healthcare providers to offer zero- and low-interest patient financing with zero credit checks or denials. At AccessOne, all patients qualify for fair and affordable financing with the same terms no matter the patient’s financial situation.
AccessOne also works with each individual patient to create a payment plan that works for them and doesn’t cause an undue financial hardship. Patients can start out in a 0% interest payment plan, and at any point they can decrease their monthly payment by extending the payment term. AccessOne stresses flexibility and customization in its financing options and strives to work with patients, not against them, to maximize total loan repayments while increasing patient satisfaction and loyalty.
We invite you to learn more about how AccessOne’s patient financing solutions can help your health system promote greater healthcare equity across your patients.