Care Everywhere: Solving Specialty Care "Deserts" to Drive Health Equity, Outcomes, and Savings | Sessions
Specialty care “deserts” are a key factor driving the growing challenge of health inequity. By virtue of geography, people around the country lack access to the expertise needed to support them in their health journeys – today, more than one-third of Americans live in a county that does not offer adequate access to primary care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, or trauma centers. Access to a specialist who can meet the healthcare needs of a patient varies dramatically across states, and the situation is likely to become worse, as 100,000 physicians are projected to leave the medical profession by 2025.
Care providers recognize that care equity benefits everyone. Access to proactive and preventive care results in fewer acute episodes and hospital stays, making practices and health systems more efficient and cost-effective. Still, lack of access makes it challenging to schedule an appointment with the right specialist for a single opinion related to an employee’s (or their loved one’s) condition, let alone a second opinion to confirm the accuracy of a diagnosis or the suitability of a treatment plan.
Even when specialty expertise is available locally, an appointment with a specialist can take weeks or even months to confirm, and gathering the necessary medical records can be complicated and time-consuming. As employees balance other obligations, such as work and/or caring for their family, finding the time to consult with an expert physician can be difficult.
Many people are uncertain where to find an appropriate specialist for their case or are faced with long travel distances to obtain an in-person consultation. In these cases, virtual opportunities can make a significant difference. Virtual care facilitates connections to the right specialist at the right time by removing geographical constraints to specialty physician visits.
With digital advancements in care delivery, individuals can receive consultation for their health needs, no matter how long they’ve been dealing with them or where they live. Technological advancements are opening the door to high quality medical expertise on complex conditions—anywhere in the country or the world. Virtual programs offer the advantage of not having to leave home and can also relieve employees of the complex and time-consuming efforts required to gather medical records from multiple sources.
- The impact of specialty care deserts on health equity for employees across diverse geographic locations.
- The role of virtual health in complementing and enhancing traditional healthcare services.
- The tangible benefits of leveraging technology to expand access to medical expertise, including reduced healthcare costs and improved health outcomes.
- New strategies to tackle rising health spend, innovate to meet the needs and expectations of today’s employees, and more effectively manage workforce health.