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New AMA Mapping Tool to Improve Patient Access to Healthcare

AMA's new mapping tool will help providers identify medically underserved areas, facilitating improve patient access to healthcare.

By Sara Heath

A new geographic mapping tool from the American Medical Association could help providers identify underserved regions, enabling them to boost patient access to healthcare.

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According to a press release, the mapping tool is an improved version of the AMA’s Health Workforce Mapper. The tool will use AMA data to locate healthcare worker shortage areas.

In highlighting regional healthcare shortages, the tool will ideally inspire providers to offer their services to underserved areas, thus closing healthcare gaps.

AMA has offered residents and medical students access to this mapping tool in an effort to expand the scope of patient care. Allowing these future physicians to view potential gaps in care may influence where they choose to practice.

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  • "Improving patient access to quality care is a core mission of the AMA, and this mapping tool will show physicians and health care professionals precisely where their skills can most benefit populations in need," said AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD.

    "Knowing where health care services are needed most can help providers make the best decisions on where to locate or expand their practices to reach patients in greatest need of access to care."

    The Health Workforce Mapper will also pull population health data to highlight quality of care in different regions.

    Through the Population Health Explorer tool, providers can see statistics about environmental and behavioral health factors such as smoking and alcohol use, patient demographics, and social environment factors.

    Patient access to care is an important aspect of patient engagement. When patients are unable to access quality care, their health falls by the wayside.

    The healthcare industry has recently made many overtures to improve access to care. In May, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) allocated $260 million in funding to improve primary care facilities in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

    In addition to improving the quality of care provided at these sites, HHS said it hopes it can increase the number of patients served at these sites.

    “Health centers are cornerstones of the communities they serve,” said HHS’s Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.  “Today’s awards will empower health centers to build more capacity and provide needed health care to hundreds of thousands of additional individuals and their families.”

    Other healthcare organizations are turning to telehealth to help improve patient access to care. By connecting patients and providers through video conferences, telehealth helps bring healthcare to patients who otherwise may need to travel long distances to access care.

    For Reena Pande, MD, chief medical officer at Abilto, expanding patient access to care in rural areas has been a key part of her telehealth strategy.

    “We have seen that about one-third of our participants come from rural regions. These are individuals who would probably never get the type of care we deliver – a combination of behavioral, coaching, and therapy delivered to high-risk medical populations,” she previously told mHealthIntelligence.com. “They may never have access to those type of providers in their regions or neighborhoods. It’s a real thrill to see that we can improve access to care nationally by this type of mechanism delivery.”

    Providers are likely to continue to prioritize patient access to healthcare. By identifying underserved areas and making themselves available in those areas, providers can make sure patients easily access the medical attention they need.

    By securing this fundamental aspect of patient engagement, healthcare professionals can move further toward achieving the triple aim of better care quality, better health outcomes, and lower healthcare costs.

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