Report: Engage low-income patients to fix income-based care gap

Healthcare providers could substantially reduce income-based healthcare disparities by improving physician engagement and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship, according to a new report from the Blue Shield of California Foundation. 

Among the report's findings:

  • Less than 50 percent of low-income Californians have positive views of their healthcare's quality, compared to nearly 70 percent of higher-income Californians who do;

  • The percentage of low-income Californians who considered their health to be "excellent" or "very good" was only 35 percent, compared to 61 percent of higher-income Californians;

  • Low income Californians are 12 percentage points less likely than higher-income Californians to feel very informed about their health; and

  • Only 38 percent of low-income residents say someone at their healthcare facility knows them "pretty well," compared to 52 percent for higher-income residents.

Patient engagement weakens the correlation between low-income status and lower ratings for quality of care, according to the report.

"The findings in this report provide new evidence that prevailing inequities in our healthcare system are not intractable," said Peter V. Long, Ph.D., the foundation's president and CEO in a statement accompanying the report. "By identifying the factors that explain inequalities in patient satisfaction and engagement, and developing simple, achievable solutions to address those factors, we can begin to level the healthcare playing field for all Californians."

The report suggests several strategies for improving quality of care among lower-income Californians, including strengthening connectedness and continuity of care, and making greater use of health technology, team-based care and navigators.

"These factors do not entirely erase the role of income in predicting patients' satisfaction with their care," the report states. "But the predictive power of income drops by half when these other factors are taken into account, a major step on the road to more equitable care for low-income Californians in comparison with their higher-income counterparts."

An October report by the foundation similarly found that patient-provider communication was a key factor in bridging income-based healthcare quality gaps, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the report