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Expedient Healthcare: How Can Black People Make the Most of Healthcare?

doctors-office-adult-black-female-patient-hospital-614x409By Tamiya King

The wait times to receive healthcare vary, depending on where you live in the United States, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

In “ideal” situations, patients receive same-day medical service. However, there are several people in America who aren’t as fortunate. The Institute of Medicine report revealed that some people have to wait several months before getting the treatment they need.

Delayed healthcare access undoubtedly has a profoundly negative effect on a person’s health and overall satisfaction with the healthcare system. According to the IOM report, these experiences could damage the reputation of the healthcare system, which could lead to a general mistrust about doctors and health care professionals.

Chair of the study committee Gary Kaplan asserts that patients want to be greeted with kindness and respect. He states that “everyone would like the hear the words, ‘how can we help you today?’ when reaching out for healthcare assistance.”

Healthcare that embodies this notion is family-centered, and healthcare professionals who are warm and friendly are often keenly attentive to a patient’s individual health needs. Kaplan states that there are healthcare professionals who provide this level of service, but stellar medical care should be more common, and the IOM study seeks to improve the system by pinpointing specific issues.

It is especially important for patients in need of mental health care to receive the services they need in a timely manner. The IOM report states that the longer these individuals have to wait for care, the less likely they are to attend their appointments. These individuals often become frustrated with the lack of timely care, which can keep them from seeking the help they need during or before intense mental health-related episodes. According to Mental Health America, Black people are at considerable risk for mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. This is largely due to the long-standing psychological effects of slavery, economic disparities and race-based exclusion from quality health care, financial and educational opportunities.

The IOM report also found that delays in health care may be attributed to supply and demand in certain areas of the U.S. The scheduling for certain appointments also favors the needs of the health care provider in some cases, and geographic and financial barriers tend to limit medical services for patients of all races at times. The Institute of Medicine asserts that patients and their families should be a priority when it comes to quality and timely medical care. The organization suggests that the “systems-based approaches” that many other industries use for efficiency could help patients to get a quicker response from their doctors.

The following suggestions were submitted by the IOM to improve healthcare access:

-monitoring and adjusting supply and demand as needed
-providing alternatives to traditional doctor visits, such as phone consultations
-scheduling health care services based on patient preferences

Preventative care should also be included in the African American healthcare regimen. This can reduce the amount of necessary doctor visits and make meetings with health care professionals a more pleasant experience. The 2012 Census report reveals that African Americans are visiting the doctor much less than before, even though Black men were more likely to consider themselves in fair to poor health than their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Positive lifestyle choices, such as exercising more, taking time to reduce stress and eating a balanced diet can promote overall vitality and well-being. These guidelines can make trips to the doctor a less uncomfortable ordeal, and could reduce overall healthcare costs, which also contributes to the improvement of the healthcare experience.

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