May 23, 2024

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Breaking Down Barriers: Learn How to Address Healthcare Accessibility Challenges

Learn how your health system or practice can break down barriers to care, one appointment at a time.

Healthcare accessibility doesn’t look the same for everyone. System-wide inequities may prevent some consumers from receiving high-quality, potentially life-saving care, but there are additional barriers that go beyond these disparities—one being an imbalance between patient demand and doctor availability. For example, even when you effectively drive patients to your digital front door, they may not be able to get an appointment in a timely manner. With rising patient volumes and persistent staff shortages, appointments are becoming increasingly limited.

With health systems running at full capacity, the challenge lies in operating an efficient business. As such, where should leaders focus their resources? It begins with addressing lingering bottlenecks. Below, we examine the issues preventing health system leaders from providing the level of accessible care patients want and need before diving into actionable solutions to help overcome these accessibility challenges.

Appointments are Hard to Come By

No health condition should be left untreated for a significant amount of time, yet lengthy waits for available appointments are causing some patients to delay care. According to a report conducted by Consumer Choice Center, the average wait for a primary physician in the U.S. is almost three weeks. Many practices offer a typical set of office hours for patient visits, but for the working adult or parent, a clinic open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. is not always practical. The rise of on-demand offerings like online shopping and media streaming has led consumers to expect immediate and convenient access, even in healthcare. When an organization can’t meet these expectations, they risk losing consumers and potential patients to other brands that can.

Plenty of Demand, But Not Enough Healthcare Professionals

High demand is a mark of a healthy business, but only if an organization is equipped with the staff and resources to keep up. In healthcare, demand is trending upwards, especially as patient acuity is projected to grow by another 10% over the next decade, which will manifest as an increase in case mix and longer hospital stays. These numbers will be challenging to contend with, as by 2026, there will also be an estimated shortage of up to 3.2 million healthcare workers. What’s more, a recent McKinsey and Company study shows resignations among healthcare professionals have surged, escalating from around 400,000 per month in 2020 to a staggering 600,000 per month in May 2023.

Doctors are hesitant to post their availability because they’re grappling with managing an overburdened staff while tending to high patient volumes. They can’t afford to lose time to misrouted or no-show appointments, so their focus becomes schedule optimization to deliver care in the most efficient manner possible. But even if one of your hospitals or practices doesn’t have appointments to offer, there are ways to point patients in the right direction—all while aligning with consumer demands.

Resolving Care Barriers Within Your Health Organization

To effectively address and overcome care barriers within your health organization, it’s essential to explore and implement strategic partnerships and innovative care models. Here’s how aligning with partners like Healthgrades can enhance accessibility and drive better patient outcomes.

Expand Access to Alternative Doctors

When your patients’ usual doctors are fully booked, encourage them to try a new doctor within your health system who can offer additional appointment times. By partnering with Healthgrades, consumers who land on the sponsored healthgrades.com profile of a doctor who cannot accommodate new patients are presented with alternative options from the same practice—ultimately allowing patients to appoint. You’ll not only retain patients within your healthcare network but also effectively mitigate capacity concerns.

Provide Convenient Ways to Access Care

To ensure that healthcare is accessible and convenient, leaders must adopt innovative solutions that meet modern consumer expectations.

Asynchronous care, where doctor-patient interactions are not conducted in real-time, offers the flexibility and autonomy many consumers want. For example, asynchronous care allows health systems to provide on-demand services like online medication refill requests and remote health monitoring so patients don’t have to carve time out of their day to see a doctor. In fact, a Healthgrades study1 found that 82% of doctors surveyed already offer a form of asynchronous care, and 65% of consumers have participated in this convenient care method. 

Similarly, online appointment scheduling (OAS) helps patients bypass the limitations of office hours and wait times. As a Healthgrades partner, you can integrate your existing online scheduling capabilities into your physicians’ healthgrades.com profile to convert patients ready to appoint on their terms. Providing 24/7 online scheduling access can mean the difference between a newly acquired patient and lost revenue. 

Telehealth is another excellent tool healthcare teams can leverage to assist patients in accessing low-acuity care, such as chronic condition management, from home. In this way, hospitals and practices can build stronger patient relationships, improve patient engagement, and retain more consumers. Research from McKinsey and Company shows that 55% of patients are more satisfied with telehealth than in-person care, and 34% of respondents are more likely to book telehealth appointments since the pandemic. However, keep in mind that as consumers increase the usage of asynchronous channels, you’ll need to decide how your health system will bill for e-visits to be fairly compensated for time and these added avenues of care.

Help Patients Prepare for Appointments

When patients finally appoint with your health system or practice, help them make the most of their time with your healthcare team. Consider encouraging them to write a list of questions or concerns ahead of time, give a detailed report of symptoms, and provide a pre-appointment checklist to let them know what they can expect. This not only ensures that each appointment is as productive as possible, but it also leads to comprehensive, personalized care that patients value and will come back to your health system or practice throughout their healthcare journey.

Harness AI to Resolve Operational Bottlenecks

Health systems and practices facing industry challenges often find themselves needing to do more with fewer resources. Leverage operational solutions that can help you prioritize direct patient care and reduce task loads to retain workforces and maintain optimal care-to-patient ratios.

Generative AI technology, for example, can perform tasks that are redundant, administrative, or require constant rework. But while getting approval to integrate AI tools might be a time-consuming endeavor for health systems, the benefits make it worthwhile. To expedite the approval process, consider identifying a platform that can resolve multiple organizational challenges at once. Once implemented, AI can offer automation capabilities that can streamline processes, optimize resource allocation, and improve overall efficiency—even in the face of time and resource constraints.

Healthgrades has partnered with Medchat to offer Medchat for Health Systems and Practices, a fully customizable, AI-powered communication and workflow automation platform. Medchat automates manual operational tasks and clinical communication workflows across all facets of the care continuum, freeing staff to focus on what matters most: their patients.

Medchat can help your health system or practice adapt to challenging circumstances with no downtime or IT resources. With Medchat’s customizable, HIPAA-compliant platform, health systems can:

  • Ensure Seamless Patient Connections: Ensures a smooth and engaging experience for both patients and healthcare professionals, fueling long-term growth.
  • Boost Operational Efficiency and Productivity: Address bottlenecks and tackle workforce shortages by automating manual tasks and empowering your team to focus on personalized care.
  • Adapt to Evolving Organizational Needs with Zero Downtime: Medchat offers customizable experiences, seamlessly adapting to emerging technologies and industry changes.

Healthgrades: Your Key to Combating Care Barriers

Resolving barriers to care is essential to ensuring every patient receives timely and life-changing care—and that your health system operates optimally. When patients skip important appointments or annual exams, continuity of care is interrupted, medication efficacy can’t be regularly monitored, acute illnesses are more likely to go untreated and escalate, and potentially serious conditions can go undetected. However, you can partner with Healthgrades to circumvent operational challenges, expand access, and help get the right patient into the right appointment slot for better health outcomes.

With Healthgrades’ Advertising Solutions, you’ll tap into the largest pool of patients actively searching for care on healthgrades.com. By investing in these solutions, you can enjoy:

  • Expanded access to alternative doctors: If prospective patients land on the sponsored profile of a doctor who is not accepting new patients, they are shown available alternatives from the same practice. This feature keeps consumers within your health system while resolving capacity issues—ultimately allowing patients to appoint.
  • Easy conversion: Integrate online appointment scheduling for in-person and telehealth services directly into your profiles to convert patients ready to appoint.
  • Increased visibility: Prominent branding and calls to action on healthgrades.com physician search results pages and physician profiles.
  • Competitive intercept: Promote your brand and present your medical staff as alternative options directly on your competitors’ profiles.
  • Syndication network: Reach consumers where they are by extending your brand across the web with our partner sites’ look and feel to provide a seamless user experience.
  • Guaranteed better relevancy in search results: We complement your SEO and SEM strategies to maximize your relevance in search results and provide qualified leads.

Medchat for Health Systems and Practices is a fully customizable, AI-powered communication and workflow automation that lets your organization:

  • Automate any manual operational tasks and clinical communication workflows across all facets of the care continuum, freeing your staff to focus on high-value activities.
  • Resolve operational bottlenecks across your organization while avoiding high development costs with open architecture technology using APIs that easily integrate with or complement existing tech stacks and systems without disruption.
  • Handle complex conversations with cutting-edge Generative AI using Large Language Models (LLM).
  • Measure operational improvements and ROI with custom dashboards for immediate visibility into critical metrics.
  • Enhance the healthcare experience with tailored solutions, addressing patient access, wait times, claims processes, staff burnout, and more.

Elevate and streamline your operations while delivering high-quality care. Get in touch with Healthgrades today to start helping your patients access your healthcare services with more ease and confidence.

1.  Physicians and Consumers Asynchronous Care + AI Survey, July – August 2023