For the next few weeks, we will be exploring the concept of access to care, so I thought it appropriate to address what it encompasses in a general sense before diving into our current healthcare situation in the United States.
Access to care, simply put, addresses the questions of ability to receive care and the quality of care that is received. Here are some factors to consider:
Supply of Services – Are there enough doctors, nurses, care providers, medicines, medical supplies, and facilities to serve the population in question? Does the supply adequately meet the specific needs of the population, or is there an excess of unneeded personnel or supplies and a shortage of those that are desperately needed?
Acceptability of Services – Is the health care that is accessible appropriate for the need in question? Is the care that is provided of high or low quality? How are medical personnel trained and how do they perform their services?
Barriers to Access – What are the cultural, social, financial, and organizational hurdles to those who are in need of care? Are there stigmas and prejudices that need to be addressed? Are there inefficient processes within health care-related organizations such as government health programs, insurance companies, and care providers? What keeps some from not being able to afford much-needed care?
Physical Accessibility – Where is the nearest doctor or hospital? Is there ease of accessibility within facilities to those who have a physical handicap?
Of course, the issue of access to care is a deeply personal and human one. When push comes to shove, every decision that is legislated becomes something that effects many individuals, and each story is different. The goal, ultimately, is to create a positive outcome for as many people as possible.
Before we dive in to these specific areas, what are your thoughts on the effects of the Affordable Care Act on all of these accessibility issues?