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What Is Patient Access In Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the industries where access and excellent customer service are paramount. This is because patients rely on healthcare facilities when they are ill, injured, or otherwise in need of medical attention. But, while everyone knows what customer service is at this point, you may wonder, what is patient access in healthcare, and why is it important? Put simply, patient access simply refers to how easily and efficiently patients are able to access healthcare services. Some common good access to healthcare examples include easy processes or access points for scheduling appointments, communicating with healthcare providers, and obtaining medical records. Access to these services allows patients to reduce wait times in your facility while also reducing the strain on your medical professionals. 

Hospitals or other healthcare facilities that offer patients a lack of access to healthcare, meaning it is difficult for patients to get the care they need from the facility or its healthcare providers, will typically experience an increased burden on their staff and facility. This is because patient access allows healthcare facilities to run more efficiently and effectively while giving patients the necessary care. Now, there are a number of factors affecting access to healthcare throughout the nation, and some of these factors are out of any particular healthcare system’s control. For example, in rural areas, there are often fewer healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals, which can make it difficult for patients to access medical attention when needed. This can make access to healthcare services challenging and lead to fewer people getting the care they need.

However, several factors influence patient access that healthcare facilities can control when it comes to ensuring easy and equitable access to healthcare services. One of the best examples of how a healthcare facility can improve access to critical healthcare services is promoting patient access education. 

Each healthcare facility will have its own processes or methods for allowing patients to access their information, schedule appointments, and even ask questions. To help your patients understand how to access these healthcare services for your facility, you need to show them how. Supply your patients with the information they need to take an active role in their healthcare. This will improve their satisfaction and alleviate some of the burden on your medical staff. Even after just a short period of introducing your patients to how they can access their own information and the services they need, you should see a clear positive impact of access to healthcare in your facility. Not only will your patients be able to coordinate more of their own appointments, but your healthcare professionals will also be able to spend their time on the services they provide rather than trying to coordinate patients.

What Is Patient Access Representative

A patient access representative is a critical position in the healthcare industry. These professionals undergo specific patient access representative training to learn how to best guide patients through the admissions processes in a clinic, hospital, or other healthcare facilities. Some of the most crucial patient access representative skills include those needed to greet incoming patients, prepare their medical information for clinical staff, and record their medical information during admission and discharge from the healthcare facility. 

Patient access representative responsibilities include:

  • Processing patient information — such as reasons for seeking treatment and insurance information.
  • Communicating important information with the appropriate staff members.
  • Entering patient information into clinical databases as well as maintaining accurate and updated patient records.
  • Preparing paperwork or documentation for patient discharge and providing guidance for any follow-up appointments needed after discharge.
  • Performing general office and administrative duties.
  • Answering patients’ questions and offering guidance on these concerns or issues.

If you are wondering how to become a patient access representative, you will need to complete the required training to build the skills needed for this position. In order to become a patient access representative, you will need to complete the training mentioned above and meet the other general requirements for the position. Typically, patient access representative requirements include proper education and training, experience working in a clerical or administrative environment, and essential skills — such as strong computer skills and effective communication in a professional setting. While the pay for this position will differ depending on a number of factors — including location, employer, education, and experience level — the average patient access representative salary is around $32,000 in the United States.

In short, when it comes to healthcare, patient access representatives take on some of the most critical responsibilities of guiding patients as they get the care they need. These representatives are the ones who help patients get clear guidance on how to progress through their appointment, what their next steps are, and how they can continue to get the help they need moving forward.

Why Is Access To Healthcare Important

Now that you know what patient access is, you may wonder, “Why is patient access important in healthcare?” Whether on the individual or community level, access to healthcare is essential. When patients can access healthcare services, they can stay healthier and prevent diseases or illnesses from progressing due to the available preventative treatments. Easy access to healthcare services allows individuals and communities to effectively stay on top of health issues and get regular and consistent care if needed — such as managing a chronic condition. This means that these people are going to be less likely to develop severe symptoms or health-related challenges due to their condition, illness, or injury. Additionally, because they are able to treat issues as they arise (or before they arise with preventative care), they can reduce the overall cost of their healthcare.

Conversely, there are a number of lack of access to healthcare effects that can negatively impact a community if these healthcare services are not readily available. Access to healthcare can help individuals and communities to prevent illnesses and recover more quickly from injuries. However, when there is a lack of healthcare services, these communities and individuals have to rely on their bodies to heal themselves rather than the experience and technology of a healthcare facility.

As mentioned above, in the United States, many of the lack of healthcare statistics and studies come from the more rural communities in the nation. These areas typically do not have as many healthcare facilities or medical professionals working in the facilities, making seeking medical attention challenging for the communities in these areas. This means that the individuals who live and work in these communities may face higher costs due to not being able to get help until they are in late-stage illnesses or injuries, longer wait times to see a healthcare professional for their needs, and unsatisfactory care if the medical professional is unable to provide the type of service or care they need due to lack of resources or availability.

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Effects Of Lack Of Access To Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the most complex industries in the United States but also one of the most important ones. After all, without healthcare, illness, disease, and injury would be much harder to recover from. Because healthcare is so important for society as a whole, you may wonder, what are the main barriers to accessing primary care in the United States? Unfortunately, one of the largest challenges that the healthcare industry faces today is managing barriers to healthcare access. There are numerous barriers, though the primary barriers are typically labeled as cost, access (geographic), discrimination or bias, and health literacy or language barriers. While these barriers to accessing healthcare can affect people all over the country from different backgrounds, economic statuses, and geographic locations, there is a severe lack of access to healthcare in rural areas especially.

As noted above, rural areas tend to have less access to healthcare facilities due to fewer healthcare providers close to them. Since rural areas tend to be much less densely populated than urban areas, having healthcare facilities that are close to the various individuals within these communities is challenging. Because of this, many individuals may have to travel a long way to get to a doctor, which is consequently one of the larger barriers to healthcare access for elderly individuals or individuals with disabilities. For rural areas, this is one of the primary causes of lack of access to healthcare, but there are other barriers to healthcare access in rural areas as well. For example, the cost of healthcare can be more expensive in areas where it is less accessible, and many individuals who live in areas where healthcare is not readily available may not have the knowledge of what services are available and what they can get from visiting a physician or other healthcare professional. 

The effects of limited access to healthcare can be severe, and because this limited access is typically most prominent in rural areas, it is these communities that are getting the most impacted by the lack of healthcare access. These communities are, therefore, typically more prone to sickness or injury that may negatively impact the rest of their lives, and they may be more at risk for a lower quality of life.

Improving Access To Healthcare

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and grow, there are more factors that affect healthcare utilization and access. As technology advances, the healthcare industry is able to incorporate more options for remote healthcare services — such as Telehealth appointments. The industry as a whole has developed many lack of access to healthcare solutions that strive to improve patient access to healthcare services of all kinds. One great example of a solution is the rise of patient access to electronic health records (EHR). This allows patients to access up-to-date records of their information and reduce the risk of medical errors or missed information.

But, these initiatives do not solve every barrier to healthcare access, and there are still problems with access to healthcare that disproportionately affect certain groups of people. For example, many healthcare services are incredibly expensive, and individuals who do not have access to health insurance may be unable to receive these services, even if they need them, due to the price. These types of issues are exactly where a patient access department can help. What is a patient access department? This department is where your patient access representatives can speak with individual patients and guide them through the best solutions to the barriers they encounter when accessing their needed healthcare services.