Low-income patients need more info, provider engagement

Clear, accessible information and open communication are necessary to build strong patient-provider relationships, especially when it comes to serving low-income patients covered for the first time under the Affordable Care Act, according to a Blue Shield of California Foundation report.

A statewide survey of 1,018 Californians ages 19 to 64 whose household incomes were less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level found:

  • Only 28 percent have all the easily comprehensible health information they need to make a good decision about their care;
  • Seven out of 10 people want more clear, accessible information from their providers; and
  • Nearly 40 percent rely on media or the Internet for health questions or concerns, the same percentage as those who seek out physicians and other providers for information.

"The survey findings show that over-reliance on non-provider sources, which may present incomplete or incorrect details about a health condition, can be an obstacle to the goal of well-informed, engaged patients," said Peter V. Long, Ph.D., president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, in the survey announcement.

The report recommended ways to improve communication and connection, such as decision aids and Internet-based patient portals designed for patients who feel they have all the information they need and are well-informed about their health.

Healthcare facilities and practices should make better use of the connection with their technologically-savvy customers, as seven in 10 low-income Californians with email or texting capabilities said they would use them to communicate with providers, the report found.

However, interactive websites, smartphone apps, texts and email reminders are out of reach for many low-income patients. More than 40 percent lack access to the Internet, compared to only 13 percent of higher-income residents. That number jumps among non-citizens, non-English speakers, Latinos, older patients and individuals in only fair or poor health, the study found.

Michael Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and former deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said in April that public education regarding the ACA is key and those who must be educated about the healthcare reform law are not a "homogenous audience," FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"In order to make sure people can [benefit from] the opportunities of ACA, they need to know how. It segments into key demographic groups. They must individually be educated in ways that resonate with them, and help them where they are, and help them to understand the value of health insurance, for those who have never had it before," Hash said.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the study