One pressing barrier to healthcare is the lack of dependable, affordable transportation to appointments. Low-income patients are hit hardest by this obstacle, forcing them to delay or forgo care all together.
Planes, trains, automobiles, taxis and Ubers. A combination of these vehicles is often what it takes for a patient to reach her doctor’s appointment. Therefore, reliable transportation plays a critical role in timely healthcare delivery. One study found that 55% of missed medical appointments or late arrivals were due to transportation problems. Access to reliable, affordable transportation enables a patient to access health services where and when he needs them, thus avoiding delayed care and negative clinical outcomes.
Low-income and underserved patients are most impacted by a lack of viable transport options. In addition to insurance barriers, these low-income patient are further blocked from care simply because they cannot afford the ride to and from the clinic. Children’s Health Fund has determined that every year 9% of children in families with income less than $50,000 per year missed routine health care due to lack of transportation. These patients rely heavily on public transportation and often cannot afford more efficient modes like cars and taxis. A study of patients in North Carolina found that those who had a driver's license had 2.29 times more healthcare visits for chronic care and 1.92 times more visits for regular check-up care than those who did not.
Primary care providers are left witnessing their patients forgo necessary specialty healthcare, like dermatology and cardiology appointments, located at hospitals far less proximal than nearby community health clinics. “Things are not as easy when it comes to transportation and getting from Point A to Point B for a lot of patients. They don’t have transportation. They have to use public transportation, or they have to borrow someone’s transportation, or wait for someone to drop them off and wait for them“ explains Dr. Daren Wu, the Chief Medical Officer of Open Door Community Health Centers in Westchester County, New York. Low-income patients in urban, suburban and rural areas alike experience unaffordable and unreliable transportation options, impacting their ability to access critical health services.
Several entrepreneurs and healthcare organizations have introduced potential solutions to this critical social problem. CareMore Health System recently partnered with Lyft to transport their Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries to non-emergency medical appointments, reducing both transit costs and wait times for patients. Another solution to these barriers is the use of eConsults by primary care providers within community-based health clinics. When these providers access expert insights, they are able to provide more comprehensive care in a convenient, affordable setting for patients and reduce the need for these patients to even leave their neighborhoods for necessary health services.
Access to high-quality healthcare is critical to healthy and equitable communities. However, underserved and low-income patients commonly face barriers in accessing healthcare, especially specialty services like dermatology and psychiatry visits. Factors that can determine a patient's ability to obtain convenient specialty care include finances, insurance status, transportation and wait times for appointments. This inequity in access can lead to adverse health outcomes, as patients are forced to delay or forgo critical medical care. Read more.