Patients in the United States
In an ideal world, every person in need of quality healthcare would receive outstanding care and service. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are a variety of methods for measuring the quality of care received, one thing is certain: gaps in healthcare exist across incomes, states and regions.
Tens of millions of people in the United States experience what are known as care gaps, which can manifest in many ways. While the effects are numerous, the end result can impact everything from quality of life to life expectancy.
As such, healthcare providers and patients alike have vested interest in uncovering what care gaps are, how they impact patients, and what can be done to equalize outcomes. Let’s examine the concept of care gaps and how they’re impacting public health in the US.
Examples of Care Gaps
Perhaps the most common definition of care gaps is situations where individuals are not receiving the recommended services and care that their age, gender or health status indicate as necessary. This can be anything from mammograms and prostate exams to regular check-ups and cancer screenings.
Because preventative care is both more affordable and more effective than treatment, both individuals and insurers have a vested interest in leveling this playing field. However, all too often, care gaps appear and then continue to grow in scope. Healthcare Finance News reports that providers should simply try to get these patients into the office, and use this as an opportunity to work through whatever logistics are leading to their individual care gaps.
Another example of care gaps – though different in scope – relate to managerial and bureaucratic inefficiencies. Often referred to as “paper gaps”, these inefficiencies are not inherently the result of a lack of care, but they can be present under select situations. Anywhere from one-fifth to one-half of the actual care gap in a given area can be due to quality management issues. Thankfully, these kinds of gaps are much easier to fix than tangible care-related gaps.
Te Impact on Individuals and Healthcare
Regular healthcare check-ups, screenings and simple access to medical services as needed are exponentially powerful in improving quality of life. Particularly among those who are between the ages of 50 and 65, care gaps mean increased spending for healthcare providers and patients alike. One report discovered that patients affected by care gaps only amount to around one-quarter of the population, yet end up comprising roughly 40 percent of future healthcare costs. Roughly $250 billion per year in lost economic productivity is contributed to care gaps within the US health sector.
While the cost factor is a major consideration for healthcare insurance providers and the federal government, the effects on quality of life are arguably much more important. It is estimated that approximately 35,000 Americans die each year from diseases that could have been prevented or treated if caught sooner.
Care gaps are real, they cost the US economy hundreds of billions each year, and the effects on patients are devastating. While some of the care gap can be attributed to poor record keeping and a lack of analytical prowess, much of this relates to income and availability of medical services within communities. Healthcare professionals must take proactive steps to intervene with patients as needed to shrink this tragic reality.