Recent health news, buzzworthy medical blogs, and personal wellness advice curated by our PinnacleCare team and our CEO, Dr. Miles Varn.
Strategies to help you get access to the care you need
Getting access to the healthcare you need in the U.S. is harder than it should be for many people. In many areas of the country, there are long waits for appointments with specialists. A survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruiting firm, found that it takes around 26 days for a new patient to get an appointment with a physician. The wait is even longer in some specialties, with average waits of 34.5 days for an appointment with a dermatologist and a 31.4 day wait for an appointment with an OB/GYN.
Another factor that makes it difficult to get access to care is the lack of healthcare providers in both urban and rural communities across the country. Researchers found that 80% of counties across the U.S. don’t have access to essential healthcare services including primary care providers, hospitals, trauma centers, and pharmacies. And data from the Health Resources & Services Administration highlight the shortage of primary care and mental healthcare providers in what they call Health Professional Shortage Areas, with a shortfall of nearly 20,000 primary care providers and more than 8,000 mental health providers.
So, what can you do to make it easier to connect with the healthcare providers and resources you need, whether you’re living with a chronic condition or facing a serious, rare, or complex illness? These strategies can be a starting point:
- Learn what resources are available. Find out what resources your health plan offers to help you find and connect with healthcare providers both locally and virtually. For example, while high demand and a shortage of providers is making getting an appointment with a mental health provider in a timely manner difficult, ask your health plan and primary care provider if there are online resources and providers they’d recommend until you can get an appointment with a local provider. You can also ask your primary care physician for a referral to a specialist, which in some cases may help you get an appointment in a shorter timeframe.
- Determine what your next steps should be. Especially if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition, figuring out what to do next can be both stressful and complicated. What tests do you need? What type of providers should be included on your care team? How can you figure out if the provider has experience and expertise treating your condition? A health advisor, health navigator, or nurse case manager can all be good resources. Not only can they connect you with providers, they can also provide evidence-based information about your diagnosis and potential treatments to help you make an informed decision.
- Get a second opinion. You can get a second opinion from a provider who’s experienced treating your condition in person or virtually. You can usually get a virtual second opinion fairly quickly, often within a few days to a week, depending on how quickly your medical records can be gathered and shared with the provider. There are several benefits to getting a second opinion. It can confirm or change your original diagnosis and treatment plan. It can lower your risk of misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment. And it can provide peace of mind because you’ve consulted with experts and gathered the information you need to choose the treatment that meets your goals.