Notably, the paper illustrates the problem of limited access to healthcare and analyzes the problem’s context. Consequently, the population affected by insufficient access to healthcare faces significant health issues. Amoah et al. (2018) argue that sufficient access to healthcare is critical for rehabilitating and curing urgent health symptoms. Thus, the considered options, solutions, including ethics implications and implementation, are presented and discussed further.
Elements of the Problem/Issue
The problem of limited access to healthcare is vital and has to be addressed. Orzechowski et al. (2020) state that despite the importance of limited access, specific social groups worldwide still face problems, such as inequalities and discrimination. Consequently, rural residents, patients with low socioeconomic status, or chronic health conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, suffer from healthcare access issues (Orzechowski et al., 2020). Hence, the inadequate access issue affects various segments of the population.
Based on the actuality of limited healthcare access worldwide, the problem must be analyzed and addressed in accordance with the context and population affected. As stated above, many patients worldwide do not get access to healthcare which may lead to inevitable health consequences.
The Context for Limited Access to Healthcare
For instance, the problem of limited access to healthcare exists in many sub-Saharan African countries. Accordingly, Amoah et al. (2018) state that the primary reasons for limited access are an inadequate number of health facilities and financial obstacles. Besides, Zhang et al. (2017) agree that financial barriers, such as low income, often lead to limited healthcare access. In addition, the patients’ location is vital; for instance, rural residents do not receive proper and high-quality healthcare services in comparison to urban residents (Amoah et al., 2018). Zhang et al. (2017) indicate the urban-rural differences in healthcare access in developing countries, such as China. Consequently, the authors suggest that sufficient healthcare access is especially vital to older adults who need specific treatments. Parsons et al. (2019) state that developed countries, such as Finland, Norway, and Australia, also face the problem of access to healthcare differences between urban and rural citizens because of the landscape’s vastness and isolated particular regions. Citizens from rural areas are simply unable to correlate travel time with timely treatment and access to necessary medical services (Parsons et al., 2019). Hence, due to limited healthcare access, people from rural areas usually do not receive proper treatment and are forced to treat themselves in-home, negatively affecting their disease and survival.
Population affected by Limited Access to Healthcare
The majority of the population is affected by limited access to healthcare. According to the World Health Organization (2017), healthcare access has enormous coverage gaps, especially for poor and rural communities. Besides, approximately half of the world’s population has limited access to healthcare services. Parsons et al. (2019) suggest that the world’s population is aging; consequently, senior patients are vulnerable to limited access to healthcare services. In addition, many senior citizens are influenced by financial difficulties; for instance, Parsons et al. (2019) indicate that one-third of the elderly in Australia suffer from poverty. Zeadally et al. (2020) state that according to the findings of the World Health Organization, the number of senior people will grow dramatically by 2050. Therefore, it is vital to ensure remote access to healthcare providers, especially for the aging population that requires continuous health condition monitoring.
Adequate healthcare access may be achieved via legislation, digitalization, and innovation. Orzechowski et al. (2020) offer a solution to the healthcare access issues, namely legal acts. Thus, the problem must be solved on a governmental level by influencing healthcare professionals’ behaviors to remove treatment inequalities. Therefore, the strengthening of minorities groups’ rights may lead to adequate healthcare access for everyone. Healthcare access may be improved through innovation and digitalization (Seixaset et al., 2021). Ann-Chatrin et al. (2020, p. 2) demonstrate that technology-enabled care (TEC), which is “a collective term for telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, mobile (m)-, digital- and electronic (e) health services,” is a solution to the current issue. Moreover, TEC connects patients’ mobile devices with healthcare professionals and facilitates information exchange (Ann-Chatrin et al., 2020). Digital health solutions and remote health services will enable sufficient access to healthcare even in rural areas.
The solution to the limited healthcare access is mobile healthcare applications’ development. Ganesan and Vijaya (2020) suggest that a mobile application with Location-Based Services (LBS) may offer a solution to a healthcare access problem. Nowadays, many people have a mobile phone or a tablet (Ann-Chatrin et al., 2020). Consequently, the mobile application will enable the user to find the nearest healthcare facilities and contact information, for example, emails and phone numbers, according to the residence area (Ganesh and Vijaya, 2020). LBS helps find the required location through GPS-enabled mobile phones and shows the route (Ganesan and Vijaya, 2020). According to Seixaset et al. (2021), the digital application should include real-time tracking of location, health issues, and updated symptoms through constant contact with the patient and continuous support online. For instance, the application might consist of a chat, where healthcare professionals will assess the situation’s urgency and provide recommendations on treatment. If the condition is urgent, the application will show the route to the closest healthcare facility or automatically connect the patient to the available healthcare professional.
The application will include digital health tracking, where patients or their relatives will update the current health conditions. The significant advantage of the digital solution is that patients from rural areas will avoid self-appointed home treatment and receive professional advice. Thus, the application will improve the efficiency of health care and enhance patient access to health care and medical advice, especially in remote rural areas and for the elderly. In addition, if the patient does not have access to the Internet, the application should display the phone numbers of the closest medical facilities’ professionals, who may evaluate the patient’s condition via phone conversation and offer immediate treatment.
Significantly, ethical issues should be considered when creating and distributing healthcare applications. According to medical ethics, Orzechowski et al. (2020) highlight that every person, regardless of residence, education, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, must have access to healthcare services. Therefore, healthcare professionals should be educated and informed on the importance of medical assistance regardless of patients’ diversification. While working in the application or providing consultations via phone, healthcare consultants should ensure a flawless experience through respectful and professional behavior. Thus, every patient, who requires medical assistance, should be treated in accordance with medical ethics and equal rights protection.
Healthcare applications implementation will solve significant problems. Ann-Chatrin et al. (2020) state that with the help of technology, the healthcare industry can increase access to care and decrease the healthcare delivery costs for patients with low socioeconomic status. Significantly, the applications will not only assist in evaluating urgent situations but also help to monitor the patients’ health continuously. Zeadally et al. (2020) suggest that the applications should connect patients’ smartphones with wearable medical devices. For instance, senior patients who cannot visit medical facilities will be able to share their health information with the application through blood pressure monitors or IoT devices. Therefore, the healthcare professional will access the needed information and provide the correct recommendations on medication doses and further actions.
To summarize, limited access to healthcare is a global problem in society. People living in rural areas, the elderly population, patients with chronic diseases and financial difficulties, who do not have the opportunity to visit medical clinics often and receive necessary treatment suffer from severe consequences. Significantly, advances in technology are impacting the restructuring of the medical industry. The solution to the limited access problem is digitalization or TEC, namely introducing and distributing medical applications that will facilitate communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Important to mention that with the help of the Internet of Things and mobile applications, patients worldwide will have access to virtual communication with highly qualified specialists and fast medical assistance. In addition, digital solutions will help patients to receive the help, care, and recommendations they require and access online medical services. Therefore, the digital solutions’ introduction solves the problem of inadequate access to healthcare and improves the medical industry as a whole. Notably, it is also crucial to pay attention to the phone counseling and consultations offered globally for patients without Internet access and living in remote regions.
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