When talking about an effective healthcare system, primary care is no doubt a vital part. It was also no secret that the system would work best when primary care providers were aware of patients’ social needs besides their medical requirements. Nonetheless, providing non-medical services related to food and housing remains a challenge for most physicians.
Recently, a survey was conducted among thousands of primary care physicians in 11 well-developed countries — Australia, France, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States, just to name a few. From the data, it was clear exactly where the US was lacking and where it was keeping the pace.
The study revealed that US doctors were having trouble with provider-to-provider communications and the exchange of patient information. Of all the US physicians surveyed, only about 50% of them said they receive notifications when their patients were admitted to a hospital or sent to the emergency room. Meanwhile, most physicians in New Zealand (85%) and the Netherlands (79%) reported that they usually receive such notifications.
When it comes to the digital exchange of patient information, less than 50% of US physicians said that they share laboratory tests, clinical summaries, and medication lists with doctors outside their practices. This number was definitely far from the 93% of physicians in other countries (Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, and the Netherlands) who reported doing the same activities.
Moreover, US physicians said that it was a huge challenge for them to coordinate with social service providers — hence why they struggled meeting the non-medical needs of patients.
Without such an obstacle, doctors could assure that every patient has a good living environment and food that suit their medical conditions. It was also revealed that a third of US doctors cited inadequate staffing, inefficient social service agencies, and a lack of formal referral systems as obstructions that hindered them from offering non-medical, yet health-related, services.
On the bright side, a huge number of US physicians offered patients electronic access to their healthcare information. Using web portals and other innovative tools, patients were allowed to refill medications, check lab tests, and make appointments online. This goes to show that the federal government took a huge step to improve healthcare access through electronic services.
In conclusion, the US healthcare system has strengths to build upon. Still, challenges remain, especially when it comes to accommodating patients’ social needs. Doctors already saw the value of meeting such needs and now they only need to find the best ways to support them.