7 in 10 low-income patients want more information from their providers, according to a new report released today by Blue Shield of California Foundationthat dives deeper to examine how low-income patients communication with their providers, where they’re accessing health information and how they feel about new technologies, approaches, and models of care.
Absent that, many turn to less trusted sources. Nearly 40 percent of low-income patients in California rely on media and the internet when they have health questions or concerns, the same as seek out physicians and other providers
The report, “Building Better Health Care for Low-Income Californians” finds that clear, accessible information and open communication are key building blocks for forging strong patient-provider relationships, producing engaged patients and ultimately improving health outcomes.
The report recommends strategies to improve communication and connection. It notes that many patients today are technologically savvy in ways that healthcare facilities and practices should utilize: Seven in 10 low-income Californians with email or cell phone texting capabilities are interested in using them to communicate with their providers.
And the survey results show the importance of a strong patient-provider relationship. Low-income patients who report having such a bond are far more likely to rate their quality of care positively, to feel that they have a voice in their care and to feel more confident in their decision-making ability.
Key findings of the survey include:
- Successful communication between patients and providers produces a wide range of positive outcomes, including bolstering patients’ satisfaction, trust in medical professionals, confidence and engagement in care decisions. Patients who have a stronger bond with their providers are a vast 43 percentage points more likely to feel they have a voice in their care, 35 points more likely than others to rate their quality of care positively and 26 points more strongly confident in their decision-making ability.
- A broad gap currently exists between the information patients possess and what they desire in order to make good medical decisions. Fifty-five percent of low-income Californians say they’d like more information for decision-making purposes – and if that information is clear and easily accessible, interest jumps to 71 percent.
- Self-reported information levels soar, and the perceived need for additional information declines, among patients who are enrolled in team-based care or healthcare navigator programs, indicating strong positive impacts of these emerging care models.Patients enrolled in team-based care, for example, are a broad 19 points more likely than others to report feeling very informed about their health and 15 points less likely to feel they need more information in order to make good healthcare decisions.
- Patient portal and decision aid users are more apt than non-users to feel very informed about their health, by 22 and 13 points, respectively. Among those who have and use portals, a nearly unanimous 92 percent find them useful. And among those who’ve been given a decision aid, a similarly high nine in 10 would use one again.
- Fewer than half of low-income Californians currently rely primarily on their care providers for their health information; as many rely on media sources (printed materials, television or the internet). Providers, however, are much more highly trusted.
- Alternative means of communication and information-gathering can enhance the role of care providers, rather than supplanting them. Use of a variety of technologies including the internet for health information, health-related smartphone applications and e-mailing or texting with care facilities are positively associated with successful patient-provider relations.
- Although relatively few low-income patients currently can communicate with their providers by text or e-mail (16 and 23 percent, respectively), 87 percent of those who do so find it useful – most of them, “very” useful. And among those who don’t have these communication options, sizable majorities are interested.
The survey found that many challenges still exist in the digital divide for low income patients including:
- Forty-two percent of low-income Californians lack access to the internet (compared with just 13 percent of higher-income residents).
- One in five lacks a text-messaging capable cell phone.
- The benefits of healthcare communication technology – smartphone applications, interactive websites, text or e-mail reminders and more – are lost to these offline or non-texting patients.
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Featured image credit: Blue Shield of California