The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has accomplished its goals by giving health care access to more citizens who are financially challenged. While this is a positive result, a problem still remains. The number of doctors providing care is declining and how geographic locations affect the accessibility of these programs. This scenario results in various areas of the country lacking the means to provide what the ACA has set out to do.
In 2014, Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic alliances at Merrit Hawkins and Staff Care, projected that more doctors would retire or leave in 2017. Pairing this with how rural areas in the country lack regarding hospital and clinic numbers, comprehensive coverage will not be achieved.
Achieving Comprehensive Coverage Via Electronic Means
Electronic solutions have been implemented by various organizations in the country to combat the current issues facing healthcare accessibility. These electronic solutions provide citizens with a more suitable way of accessing healthcare through remote means, particularly online therapy. “Online therapy is also known as teletherapy, online counseling, distance therapy, internet therapy, e-therapy, telehealth, telebehavioral health, email therapy, text therapy, phone counseling.” Sena Moran, LMHC said.
Three California organizations utilizing the said means are Kaiser Permanente (focused on Northern California) and the Blue Shield of California with the help of Adventist Health, a non-profit healthcare provider in the area.
Studies have shown that site visits to the Kaiser Permanente website increased from 4.1 million to 10.5 million in 2013. Kaiser Permanente is aimed at providing quality healthcare services via remote communication between patients and doctors. Remote communication is achieved by providing a platform that is inclusive of all the patients’ needs.
The patients choose the doctor they wish to consult with by browsing Kaiser Permanente’s doctor bios on their site, giving importance to the patient’s specific needs. Doctors and staff are also multilingual. Therefore, patients that wish to communicate more efficiently may choose a doctor that can speak their native tongue.
Patients requiring immediate advice such as unexpected occurrences in their healing process may call and advise a nurse that is available 24/7. Kaiser Permanente stores detailed health information that is accessible to all its staff to provide immediate responses. This process removes the patients’ need to schedule appointments. But note, “online care is not for every patient or practitioner. Clients with more serious mental illnesses or addictions likely need more treatment than digital therapy can provide. And some clinicians may find certain telehealth modalities difficult.” A clinical psychologist Nina Barlevy, PsyD says.
The organization does not only focus on telecommunication. They also have a mobile app wherein patients can manage their health plan in any location and at any time.
Blue Shield Of California In Collaboration With Adventist Health
The Blue Shield Association is a federation of health insurance organizations and companies. An independent member of the said organization, the Blue Shield of California, provides remote access to doctors, specialists, and hospitals by implementing a telehealth initiative in collaboration with Adventist Health, a non-profit healthcare provider in the area. This initiative is similar to Kaiser Permanente’s operational procedures.
However, the organization’s procedure differs in how the patients consult with their desired doctors. While Kaiser Permanente allows remote appointment scheduling and remote healthcare management, Blue Shield focuses on interactive video technology.
Utilization of this technology requires patients to go to any of the nine local Adventist Health sites. With those sites, they may consult with their doctors who are across the state. It is achieved with a centralized command center. This center sets up the appointments, allowing patients to consult doctors according to their availability. Easy as it may seem but John M. Grohol, Psy.D. said “This kind of effort takes a fair amount of commitment and understanding of the online world.”