Health disparities are a long-standing issue across the world, including in the United States.
Everyone deserves to lead a healthy life, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, geographical location, age, physical and mental abilities, sex, or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, even today, many people don't have fair access to much-needed healthcare resources because of unfair policies and practices.
What is Healthcare Equity?
According to the World Health Organization, health inequities refer to the various disparities in health outcomes and the availability of health resources between population groups, which are largely determined by the social systems individuals are born into. They outline how one's life conditions—such as where they were born or what job one holds—can have a considerable impact on their overall well-being.
Equity of access to healthcare is often based on the social systems described above, commonly called social determinants of health (SDoH). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services groups SDoH into five domains: economic stability, access to quality education, access to quality healthcare, neighborhood and build environment, and social and community context. These domains cover safe housing, the surrounding community, transportation, education, job opportunities, language and literacy skills, access to nutritional food and physical activity opportunities, and polluted air and water.
Barriers to Healthcare Access
SDoH factors are often the major determinants of a community’s quality and access to healthcare. More specifically, common barriers to receiving healthcare treatments include poverty and transportation.
Although only 14% or 46 million Americans live in rural areas, most primary care health professional shortage areas are in these communities. The average time to drive to a hospital in rural communities is 17 minutes, which is 65 percent longer than in urban communities. This exacerbates the transportation barrier cited as one of the main reasons for rescheduled appointments, delayed care, and missed or late medication use — all of which can lead to poor management of chronic illnesses and worsening clinical outcomes.
The elderly and mobility-impaired patients may also find traveling for doctors’ appointments laborious and stressful. For some low-income patients, leaving their job for their medical appointment may not be viable. Barriers like these can lead to them missing their appointments.
How Telehealth and RPM Help Bridge the Health Equity Gap
Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) play a significant role in addressing some of the biggest challenges in achieving equitable healthcare access. Tools like virtual visits, audio consultations, and biometric readings through Bluetooth peripheral devices have revolutionized access to healthcare, not only for patients of lower socioeconomic status but also for patients residing in rural communities and those with mobility challenges.
Telehealth and RPM remove the barriers to healthcare access by delivering healthcare directly to the patients, wherever they are located. Patients are empowered through remote patient monitoring to manage their condition at home. In some cases, in-office visits can be totally replaced with remote patient monitoring and virtual visits, giving patients peace of mind. Worries like transportation, childcare, missing work with no pay, and time and cost constraints can be eliminated.
These are some of the ways telehealth and RPM can help achieve health equity:
Provide care whenever, wherever
With telehealth and RPM, providers can track vital signals using remote medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucometers, and pulse oximeters. Patients from rural areas, as well as those from urban areas who find it challenging to be present in a healthcare facility for treatment, can benefit from having their vitals monitored remotely because a healthcare provider can view these vital signs electronically and adjust the patient’s care plan accordingly
Empower patients to self-manage their health
Despite the lack of in-person contact, healthcare organizations can promote and improve their patient’s health literacy via telehealth and RPM tools. Patients can be equipped with educational material related to their diagnoses, and providers can also respond to patients’ queries via the platform.
Address connectivity issues
For patients from rural communities who are faced with obstacles such as limited access to smartphones, poor internet, and weak broadband connectivity, HRS has solutions to help mitigate these problems. Patients without a Wi-Fi or cell phone connection can still participate in their telehealth programs using SIM card access points. HRS’ support team is also able to provide 24/7 technical support for any other concerns.
Building Health Equity with HRS
SDoH factors may make access to healthcare more challenging, but with the right technology, these barriers can be removed. As a leading telehealth and RPM solutions provider, HRS promotes health equity by making healthcare accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status.
Learn more about how communities benefit from telehealth and remote patient monitoring today.