Wed, April 01

Commentary: Health care innovations benefit rural Arizona

Innovation and a patient-centered approach are more important than ever in solving the challenges that Arizona families face when accessing quality health care.

Consider the social barriers to care that impact many patients in Yavapai County, including geographic location and socioeconomic status.

People living in rural areas often face unique challenges when it comes to accessing basic health care services, as do low-income families that may lack transportation, seniors, and others.

These barriers to care increase the likelihood that illnesses go untreated and minor conditions worsen into chronic diseases – leading to poor health outcomes for the patient and increased costs for society.

But improvements are being made for rural and traditionally underserved patients.

Telemedicine and similar innovations are helping to close the gap between rural Arizonans and health care professionals. Individual health insurers are even offering plans that provide transportation benefits and gas reimbursements to assist enrollees in need.

Making health care accessible and affordable is a primary goal for today’s health plans. This is no more clearly demonstrated than by their work implementing innovative technologies and coverage options aimed at ensuring rural communities reach the care they need. Because even the best health care in the world doesn’t matter if patients can’t reach it.

Preventive care and chronic-condition management are essential, and the work of local health plans to ensure access to these services is critical to efforts to improve care across Arizona.

Preventive care and a focus on long-term wellness not only lead to healthier patient outcomes, they reduce costs as well.

This is especially true in the Verde Valley, where many families live in rural communities and may face obstacles in accessing regular care.

A patient’s success in managing his or her health correlates directly with their ability to work, attend school, care for children and engage productively with the community. The good news is people have more opportunities than ever to take charge of their own health and partner with their health care providers in accessing the care they need regardless of where they live or other circumstances.

Certainly, there is more progress to be made in expanding access to quality, affordable care. But significant strides are being made – and that means healthier families and a healthier Arizona.

Will Humble is the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

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