An old saying rare to apply when it comes down to accessing a well-deserved health care service thru shared transportation. Particularly when we are talking about non-emergency transportation services.
In many communities, a lack of transportation stands in the way of receiving adequate medical attention for some citizens. Such persons are often older, disabled, poor, rural residents, or members of minority groups. Since such persons often experience other barriers to accessing healthcare services, such as inadequate health insurance coverage, the additional burden of inadequate transportation compounds an already difficult situation. Problems in accessing appropriate health care services typically result in:
• Lowered trip frequencies, higher per trip costs, and a tendency to limit medical trips taken to those “immediately and absolutely necessary.”
• Restricted access to nonemergency health services, leading to missed healthcare for purposes such as well visits, health screening, and vaccinations.
• A greater than average or appropriate dependency on emergency transportation services and emergency health care services.
• Worsened health conditions and health outcomes, leading to greater expenditures than would otherwise have been necessary.
• In the long run, diminished health, shorter life spans, loss of worker productivity, and increased health system costs.”
Medical transportation plays a vital role in improving health care by:
• Encouraging greater use of preventive medical care
• Keeping people mobile and independent in their own homes
• Increasing overall health and well-being
• Reducing overall health costs to society
• Creating cost-sharing arrangements between the medical and transportation communities
One of the great challenges of the coming years has been termed the Age Wave. Simply put, there will be more senior citizens (persons 65 and older) in our country in the future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population 65 and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030, reaching a total of about 71 million seniors in 2030. It is the Baby Boom generation – persons born between 1946 and 1964 – that is the leading edge of this Age Wave. In the year 2020, 10,000 persons will turn age 65 every day. These projections are important because seniors typically require more health care than younger persons.
Thus, the key demographic trends are expected to include:
• More seniors: greater numbers and a greater proportion of the population
• More trips by seniors
• Widening income disparities
• More persons with disabilities, more persons with reduced mobility
• More demand for high quality services
• More spatial dispersion, lower density settlements
We’re now at the point where the benefits of access to medical care have become clear. Coordination, not just among transportation providers but among transportation and medical providers, benefits everyone. Going without medical care has negative consequences for the patient, the medical care system and all taxpayers in this country. Well-designed, well-coordinated community transportation systems can help save medical costs, increase positive healthcare outcomes, increase the quality of life and reduce overall costs to society. It’s time to get serious about productive healthcare and transportation partnerships.