Improving healthcare services for the underprivileged need to adopt a three-pronged approach aimed at better access, better care and reduced costs. Inaccessibility to quality healthcare service and high treatment costs are the prime factors that mostly restrict the unprivileged class from reaching out to quality medical assistance.
The focus should be on the quality of outcome:
A study conducted in the US with 22 million hospital admissions, where two dozen common illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and postoperative infections were examined, gave surprising results.
It showed a huge variation among the best and worst performing hospitals. Patient mortality is likely to be 3 times, and sufferance from complications is likely to be 13 times more in the worst performing hospitals. Such alarming outcomes are also observed in hospitals of the same metropolitan areas. The patient’s choice of hospital, in that case, becomes the deciding factor of life and death.
Another study contradicting the set conventions found that some low-performing hospitals served high-income patients while some high-performing ones are serving mainly low-income group minority population.
Proper assessment of data and making it available to public:
Hospitals acting properly on the available patient outcome data help in improving healthcare services. Medical professionals in hospitals need to be aware where things need to be set right. This can be done only through a careful analysis of the data on treatment outcomes of the hospital.
The assessment, if made available to public, would help patients to make the right choice of treatments in a hospital. It is obvious that not all hospitals offer the same level of expertise in all forms of treatments.
Improving healthcare service in developing nations:
The scenario is somewhat peculiar in developing nations where the demand supply gap is always broadening. Huge evidence confirms that a substantial population in these nations do not avail the existing healthcare which would otherwise have been beneficial for them.
The poorer are likely to receive less effective healthcare due to accessibility and cost. The word accessibility, here, can be expanded into a broader spectrum like availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability all of which contribute significantly to the ultimate treatment outcome.
Gross underutilization of effective healthcare:
If access to effective healthcare is a major problem, the gross underutilization of available medical interventions is no less concerning. It is even more surprising that the most economically backward sections make least utilization of effective treatments though most of these come free of cost and the paid treatment costs are not prohibitively expensive.
Socio-economic factors, culture, deep rooted attitude, gender issues and lack of education are top contributors to this massive underutilization. Sometimes long travelling cost and the related stress prevents the underprivileged class access effective healthcare.
Improve the utilization of available interventions:
This is very important considering the existing resource constraint in developing countries. No doubt it demands an increased budgetary allocation in healthcare but other factors are also needed to be taken care of.
- Spending to be directed to most effective medical interventions based on geographical distribution of population.
- Improving the quality of healthcare services through well manned public primary healthcare units and effective resource allocation.
- Reforms in management and regulatory bodies where the providers are incentivized for delivering quality medical care ensuring people of the availability of effective medical care.
- Raising the acceptability level of available medical interventions among the underprivileged class.
- Improved purchasing power of the healthcare seekers.
Raising the healthcare demand:
While resources continues to be a big stumbling block, the demand to access the available healthcare can be raised by:
- Implementing universal health coverage. While this may be expensive, many low-income nations extend coverage to the poor through available tax revenues.
- Granting criteria based exemptions especially in immunization programs where the poor should be fully exempted.
- Promoting cash rewards to improve utilization. This has been proved to be effective since treatment cost waiver does not always enhance utilization of available healthcare due to lack of education and ingrained cultural attitude.
- Reducing travelling hassles. This implies that either people should be transported to the service centers or services should reach their doorsteps. The latter service has improved the accessibility percentage to some extent. If schemes lowering the travel price can be implemented, the effective treatment outcome would be better.