Whether you are looking for healthcare for yourself, your children or an elderly relative, it can be a daunting task at times. Every insurer has its own set of rules and physicians and costs. With the dawn of the Affordable Care Act, there have been some improvements to the business side of the healthcare industry. Even with this policy still in place, there are many pitfalls when seeking treatment and to overcome them may take a little bit of ingenuity and perseverance on your part. Remember this above all else, you must think of yourself as your only advocate. Don’t allow your voice to be ignored when you or your loved one is the patient.

It is a known fact that we have a better quality of life when we are healthy, so it should be everyone’s goal to stay healthy or to become healthier. This is what Voyage Direct Primary Care is working hard to encourage. With this universal goal in mind, it should be noted that not everyone is able to pursue it or access quality healthcare effectively. I’ve already mentioned that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has changed some things in the healthcare industry for the better, but there are people still facing barriers when it comes to their healthcare and seeking medical treatment. There are so many factors that play a role in this.

Barrier #1

Where you live is one of the biggest factors that affect your access to quality healthcare. Many healthcare providers are reluctant to set up an office in the “inner city,” which I have learned is merely a more polite way of citing a neighborhood or area that tends to suffer from a high rate of crime, that is largely made up of a minority population, a neighborhood that may have a lot of abandoned or dilapidated housing that houses low-income people. Of course, this is not always the case, but I have learned that this is the imagery most Americans get when they hear the term “inner city”. With that being said, many of these areas only have a hospital or an urgent care facility. To get to a specialist, or even a general practitioner in many instances can be difficult. Transportation or the cost of transportation can be a hindrance in being able to leave your neighborhood in an attempt to reach a higher quality of healthcare.

Barrier #2

Who you are and what you look like is another common barrier to healthcare. Women and non-white persons tend to experience greater disparity in treatment and care. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you may have or how articulate your speech is, first impressions make a big difference in the level of care you receive. If you appear to be haggard or homeless, you are likely to be swept under the rug, even more so if you are in an underserved community. When your facial features, skin color, odor, etc. are the deciding factors of the level of care you receive, public policy does very little to help.

Barrier #3

Persons that are unable to get around efficiently or have decreased mobility due to age or health tend to have a more difficult time accessing healthcare on their own. When these people have a support system in place (family members, community members, a church, etc.) they tend to fare a lot better. But if the support system is lacking, then there will likely be greater difficulty in accessing treatment.

An 80-year-old who has to use a walker because of arthritis or having suffered a stroke may consider moving to an assisted living facility where getting treatment wouldn’t be such a hardship. However, there are many things that would have to be taken into consideration, most importantly whether or not this is a viable solution. Other possibilities include using specialized transportation services that are offered to those who are unable to get themselves from one place to another.

Barrier #4

Having a psychological disorder or a mental illness is another issue that can affect access to healthcare. Persons who are unable to cope with being in social situations or interacting with individuals they are not familiar with and persons who experience paranoia, delusions or hallucinations can find it difficult to gain access to care, whether it is mental health services or physical health services. Undiagnosed persons will also have a hard time getting effective treatment. When healthcare providers are unaware of any existing health challenges, there tends to be a lot of time wasted.

Education and in-home treatment would be good options for those suffering from mental health disorders. The community needs to be educated to help reduce the stigma surrounding people with mental illness. Tackling this issue as a community is one of many steps that can help suffering persons feel safer and be more willing to seek treatment when needed.

Barrier #5

Financial resources pose a large barrier to the level of medical treatment a person receives. Paying for medicine or services out of pocket is not a realistic option for many people. For those who have health coverage with a high deductible, paying out of pocket is a very real eventuality. If these people have access to quality healthcare and lack the means to pay for that quality healthcare, then we have another barrier to seeking medical treatment. Very often, the prospect of not having the ability to pay for medical treatment keeps people from seeking care before a problem gets out of hand. When taking care of a small health problem is not affordable or in someone’s budget, then when the problem grows, it will have become even more expensive. Some possible solutions to this barrier include offering tax credits to certain income brackets, creating universal healthcare and increasing living wages.

Barrier #6

Cultural barriers are common all over the world. There are some cultures and religions that believe that those who are ill should not consult a medical physician for whatever the problem is. There are religions that believe that their god or supreme deity will see fit to either heal them or not. For those persons wanting to seek medical treatment, but know that it is culturally unacceptable to do so, deciding to take action or having access to a medical facility or procedure may be greatly impaired. Long-standing beliefs like these are very difficult to break through and influence. People can be educated on the benefits of seeking care when necessary, but ultimately, it will be up to the people as to whether or not they decide to look to modern medicine.

Barrier #7

Language can cause a fair amount of trouble when attempting to seek medical care. Although most medical clinics and hospitals have interpreters on staff, there may be times when a translator is not available. This is when the language barrier presents the most challenge. Neither side is able to effectively help the other. Pre-existing medical issues or mental issues are easily missed, and precious time may be spent on the wrong things.

Solutions and Conclusions

Medical treatment is a necessary part of staying healthy and improving your health. Without access to healthcare, we all run the risk of decreasing our quality of life. Managed care has brought some changes to the American healthcare system. Managed care has its strong points and shortcomings. It allows more citizens health coverage and places emphasis on mental health, allowing more people to feel more comfortable seeking help in this area. Some criticisms of this type of health coverage include inadequate treatment, poorer quality of care and the denial of needed care. It has brought more people to mental health professionals, which has resulted in the lowering of its costs for care.

Giving patients more options when it comes to healthcare and revolutionizing the cost for treatment are two big things that can make a difference in how and when people decide to use their healthcare coverage. If health coverage is more affordable or if people have more income available to put toward their healthcare, it is likely that more steps toward preventative care will be taken. When a society or a segment of society is lacking basic financial resources, food and shelter will always be prioritized over medical treatment. Only acute medical situations will be addressed.

Barriers to healthcare come in many different forms and affect a wide range of people across socioeconomic classes. Things like cost reforms, destigmatization, better access, cooperation, and education can help people to make better choices when it comes to overcoming some of these pitfalls in seeking treatment. No business is perfect, and the medical system is no different, but if we all do our part to help erase some of the stigmas associated with getting care and focus more on the people we are trying to help, things can only get better from here.