Many patients face barriers that limit their access to healthcare, including lack of transportation, long travel times, and the costs associated with care. Vulnerable populations often encounter additional barriers, such as limited economic resources, language barriers and higher rates of uninsurance or underinsurance.1 Urgent care telehealth can help to remove some of the hurdles associated with accessing healthcare among vulnerable populations.
What is Telehealth?
A telehealth appointment allows patients to virtually connect with a healthcare professional using technologies such as video conferencing and phone calls. Telehealth helps to remove many of the barriers associated with traditional in-person healthcare appointments.
Medical Care providers can virtually meet with patients to determine what level of care they need. Low acuity cases can often be treated during a telehealth appointment, whereas other patients may require an in-person appointment.
Medical Care providers can also use telehealth to determine what level of care they need. Low acuity cases can often be treated over telehealth, preventing an unnecessary trip to the emergency department.
Medical providers can virtually review X-ray or lab results with their patients, provide education, and manage prescriptions.
While urgent care telehealth is useful in many circumstances, such as for a common cough, headache or UTIs anyone experiencing a life-threatening event should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Vulnerable Populations in Healthcare
Vulnerable populations in healthcare can include2:
In many cases, vulnerable patients suffer from health conditions that are made worse due to limited access to healthcare. Research has shown that telehealth can help vulnerable populations increase their access to care3.
How Can Telehealth Increase Access to Healthcare?
There are several ways telehealth can help vulnerable patients improve their access to care, including:
Reduce the need for transportation
A lack of transportation is a major barrier for many patients when trying to access healthcare. This is especially true for vulnerable patients who often face more barriers to transportation and experience greater negative health consequences4. Telehealth appointments can help to improve access to care since patients can speak with a healthcare professional without having to leave their homes.
Reduce travel times
Patients in rural and remote locations often travel long distances to access healthcare due to workforce shortages. This can lead to time-consuming and expensive commutes that may deter patients from regularly accessing care. A telehealth visit can reduce the need for travel and encourage patients to maintain their healthcare appointments.
Telehealth offers 24/7 access to healthcare. This can help patients avoid having to take time off work or arrange childcare to attend an appointment during regular business hours. For elderly or immunocompromised patients, telehealth helps them avoid a trip to a clinic where they risk exposure to communicable diseases while sitting in a waiting room.
Cost is a barrier to access for many patients, including vulnerable populations. Research has found that often elderly patients will forgo care due to the lack of affordability5. For patients in rural areas, the costs associated with travel, including fuel, parking, and accommodation can be a deterrent6. For non-life-threatening conditions, an urgent care telehealth appointment can help to prevent an expensive trip to the emergency department.
Experience The Benefits of Telehealth
From reducing travel times to minimizing costs, telehealth can help to overcome many of the barriers vulnerable populations face when trying to get care. If you struggle to access traditional health care, consider telehealth the next time you want to speak with a healthcare professional.