How Telehealth Improves Healthcare Access for Marginalized Communities

Having readily accessible healthcare can help provide peace of mind and reduce inequality. A healthier population also allows more people to take up employment, which boosts the economy. 

In the US, marginalized people suffer from a range of daily difficulties. Limited healthcare access is one of the biggest challenges, leading to substantial negative implications for these communities. 

Telehealth serves as a potential bridge. Although there is still a long way to go before equal access to healthcare is achieved, the technology is enabling people with less time and money to receive treatment. Integrating telehealth also improves healthcare access for communities in hard-to-reach locations. 

Here’s how this technology improves healthcare access for marginalized communities. 

 

What is a Marginalized Community? 

 

A marginalized community is any group that is separated or stands apart from the rest of society, has limited access to services, and may be subject to discrimination. 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says: 

“Marginalized communities are those excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational, and/or cultural life… Marginalization occurs due to unequal power relationships between social groups.” 

Examples of marginalized communities in the US include: 

  • Neighborhoods where most people live close to or below the poverty line 
  • Ethnic minorities and indigenous groups
  • Immigrants either defined as “unskilled” or without higher education
  • Military veterans
  • Senior citizens
  • People belonging to the LGBTQ+ community

Marginalized communities are not just physical places; they are people of different races, ethnicities, and income levels. They are dispersed across different neighborhoods, towns, and cities within the country. 

 

Barriers to Healthcare for Marginalized Communities

 

Limited Financial Power

 

Income inequality in the US has been growing for more than three decades. As the OECD reveals, its Gini Coefficient, which ranks countries based on gaps between the rich and poor, is the fifth-highest among member countries. 

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As the graph below shows, health and social problems are strongly linked with unequal societies. 

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Individuals earning less money in the US do not have access to the high-quality healthcare that more privileged groups do. And in some cases, they may not be able to afford any coverage. As such, they’re at a higher risk of developing more severe symptoms for illnesses that could have otherwise have been treated. 

 

Location

 

Marginalized communities’ healthcare access does not only come down to income. Geography is also a factor; getting adequate medical access is problematic for groups living outside major towns and cities. 

According to data from December 2019, rural areas accounted for nearly 63% of Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

People living rurally in the US may not have the needed practices and clinics within a reasonable travel distance. In some cases, they might not have a car or reliable public transport to count on. 

Such isolation can lead to people ignoring symptoms because of the inconvenience, resulting in poor health incomes and lower life expectancy. 

 

A Lack of Time 

 

Marginalized communities may also find that they do not have the time to schedule appointments. This could be for numerous reasons, including: 

  • Having to work longer hours to make ends meet 
  • Needing to care for loved ones
  • Having to travel long distances to get the help they need

Limited opening hours for practices amplify this issue, as other responsibilities often cannot be adjusted to accommodate the inconvenience. 

 

How Telehealth Helps Marginalized Communities 

 

Bringing Healthcare to the Home 

 

One significant benefit of telehealth is that it brings care to the individual. Patients have more flexibility to book appointments at a time that suits them, while remote patient monitoring allows practitioners to track their progress round the clock. 

Remote care also allows patients to access healthcare no matter where they are, so more people feel like they can get help if they think something is wrong. 

 

Cost-Effectiveness

 

Telehealth helps patients receive the help they need at a fraction of the cost of visiting a practitioner in person. 2017 research by Health Affairs found that the average telehealth visit costs each patient $79. In comparison, in-person visits cost $146.

For in-person visits, there are also fuel or public transport costs, as well as possibly needing overnight accommodation, and meals while away from home. Telehealth helps patients save money in many ways.

 

A Tailored Plan

 

Members of marginalized communities may feel ignored and misunderstood—and in some cases, language barriers exacerbate the problem. In these cases, access to a doctor who can relate to their experiences results in better healthcare. 

With digital healthcare, patients have more options when it comes to choosing their doctor. They can, for example, choose someone who speaks their language or shares their religion. Patients can also select doctors with similar life experiences to them, helping to create a more mutual understanding.

How ChronWell Can Help 

 

ChronWell offers extensive telehealth services to help practices meet the needs of patients with both short-term and chronic conditions. Our technology was developed by the most reputable software companies within the healthcare sector and tested and loved by institutions throughout the US.

Patients can access ChronWell’s healthcare solutions from multiple income entry points and can schedule appointments at times that are convenient for them. 

To find out more about how ChronWell helps practices improve their healthcare services and patient satisfaction, contact one of our experts today

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