Safety Net Hospitals (SNH’s) are vital for many vulnerable populations. They serve a wide range of patients who otherwise might not receive healthcare services. They do good and important work. But it’s not easy. To stay open and aiding public health, they have to find ways to manage both healthcare and their finances. Accessibility helps this in a few ways.
ADA and Patient’s Right to Accessible Communications
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Since its start in 1990, it has grown to include things like accessible communications and services. For healthcare institutions, this means ensuring clear communications for all patients.
Without accessible communications, you deny many patients access to critical information. It also opens your institution up to risk. If content isn’t accessible, it can negatively impact patient care and lead to costly lawsuits. In order to do the most for the high-risk populations they serve, SNH’s should ensure accessibility.
What should be accessible?
Much like in the Finance and Insurance industries, communications that need to be accessible are broken into two primary types.
- Patient-specific documents
This can include a discharge summary, medication instructions, billing statements, etc. But it can also include documents that help patients be proactive in their healthcare. This includes immunization reminders and information on scheduling preventative care. We’ll touch more on this later as it plays a big part in the success of SNH’s.
- Public-facing communications
This includes any content that is readily available to the public. Hospital websites, public health mailers, etc. all need to be accessible.
The Benefits of Accessibility
The legal aspect is important, but it’s not the only reason to provide accessible patient communications. For healthcare institutions, and SNH’s in particular, accessible communications help you provide better managed care for patients. SNH patients are often underserved. They may be older, disabled, or otherwise less able to manage their own health. Providing them with communications they are able to ingest can make a big difference.
Better Overall Patient Care
Clear, accessible communications are imperative to best serve this population. Accessible, proactive healthcare communications can help patients better manage their own health. They help patients manage chronic conditions and prevent serious complications. This results in fewer emergency visits and / or hospital admissions.
Plus (as mentioned earlier) accessible communications can remind patients to receive preventative care. This includes information about immunizations, cancer screenings, and prenatal care. All of which can reduce the likelihood of serious health issues.
Better Financial Management with Capitative Care
As we’ve mentioned, populations who use SNH’s are often older / underserved. This means they may have capitative care. Put simply, capitative care payments mean that an institution gets a set amount of money per patient. That amount stays the same regardless of the volume of services the patient needs. So, for SNH’s, preventative care that keeps patients healthy is ideal. Because it avoids the more costly issues that arise when health goes unchecked for long periods.
The Future of Accessibility in SNH’s
Regardless of a patient’s situation, they deserve access to healthcare. Even further, they deserve to have accessible options in the formats they receive. That way, their health conditions, treatment options, and instructions for care are clear and effective. And in order to keep providing that level of service, Safety Net Hospitals need to do what they can to avoid additional costs. Accessible communications are a good starting point for both. Want to learn more about ensuring accessibility in your institution? Check out our whitepaper.