The reality is that Medicaid recipients face barriers that hinder families from accessing quality care. Beyond the inability to pay for healthcare, many low-income families struggle to satisfy or meet the daily needs of food security, living circumstances, transportation, clothing, electricity as well as water and heat supply. On top of it all, meeting work demands can be a strain. These issues trickle over into the ability to access healthcare services. For example, follow-up visits and ongoing care that is only limited to business hours serve as an inconvenience in one’s daily routine, including reporting to work, upkeeping a home, and tending to a family. These challenges can be detrimental to many patients who are given scheduled appointments to observe and check on new and existing conditions to ensure that medication and health regimens are kept in accordance with the provider’s orders. Specifically, individuals who are closely monitored are at a lower risk of missing medicine dosages, seeking emergency room care, or being admitted for sicknesses and illnesses that are both preventable and treatable. To minimize the burden that is placed on medicaid recipients and their multiple visits to the clinic or hospital, it may be imperative to turn away from traditional care and welcome the benefits of the telehealth alternative.
Telehealth is the use of telecommunication to provide virtual healthcare. Introducing Telehealth to recipients mean better access to healthcare, more quality care services, and less emergency room visits. The emergency department has become the most convenient option for accessing healthcare since there is no commitment to an appointment, and you can receive services around the clock.
The most significant advantage of non-traditional care may be the ease of accessibility without sacrificing quality. Traditional methods of accessing healthcare services require a patient to dedicate time and seek out necessary resources. For someone facing financial woes, conventional approaches may result in missing a day’s pay or a quick doctor’s visit turning into an hour-long journey when factoring in the hassle of public transportation. These challenges make keeping up with one’s health and well-being counterproductive. Fortunately, there is a way to provide the same level of prudence and attention without compromising a patient’s life balance.
Through telemedicine, professionals can diagnose and treat patients remotely. Technological advances have allowed virtual connections through smartphones and social networking sites. The probing question would be whether low-income families have access to an available phone, computer, or internet? In tracking statistics, the Pew Research Center found that in 2017, 67% of people who made less than $30k had a smartphone. Furthermore, generally speaking, low-income populations have been shown to be astute when it comes to finding free wi-fi resources to video chat without splurging on data usage and per-minute calling expenses. Therefore, technology is not a limiting factor. However, insurance reimbursements may be.
Since the states administer Medicaid, every state has different rules and regulations on what is covered and what is not. On the upside, states are often making regular revisions and updating the principles of coverage. As for telemedicine, currently, 48 states have reimbursement policies that are in favor of compensating for live video. In some cases, they grant the same costs for live video as they do for in-person visits. The Center for Connected Health Policy allows for recipients and providers to keep tabs on the reimbursement regulations in their respective state.
With roughly 74 million Medicaid recipients in the U.S. facing challenges that interfere with their ability to access healthcare, telemedicine is the sure way to provide this particular population (as well as others) with convenience and a stress-free alternative to traditional practices. If optimal healthcare is not deliverable to patients, it is ineffective. The healthcare program exists to provide low-income individuals with the ability to seek preventative and treatment care that assists in establishing and maintaining healthy, fulfilling lives. The common barriers of inaccessibility as a result of daily duties should not be the leading factor that causes recipients to remove the maintenance of optimal physical wellness from their list of priorities.