What Women (and Dave Barry) Want from Healthcare

Friday, June 6th, 2008
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Before I get too far into this post, let me state two things. First, a study from the AAFP is serious. Second, a video of Dave Barry is not. I wouldn’t ordinarily feel compelled to say so, but after hearing Dave Barry speak to our Specialized Information Publishers Association this week, I feel I should. The humorist told us that many readers have taken him to task over “inaccuracies” in his columns over the years.

In the video excerpt below, Barry shares a baby boomer’s health woes and some thoughts on male and female expectations of healthcare. (Disclaimer: The shakiness of the video is directly related to the number of laughs Barry received.)

On a more serious note, U.S. women have very clear expectations from healthcare, according to a new Harris Poll survey commissioned by the AAFP. If these results are any indication, most American women will be very comfortable moving into a medical home.

The poll results indicate that 90 percent of American women shoulder healthcare responsibilities for themselves and their families. The survey, “Fixing Health Care: What Women Want,” was conducted March 20-24 and gathered responses to questions about healthcare from 1,270 U.S. women age 18 and older.

Here are a few findings from the survey, followed by some additional “wishes” expressed by some female colleagues:

  • Women put better access to their PCPs at the top of their wish lists, with 68 percent of women surveyed rating same-day appointments as “very important” or “extremely important.” Only 40 percent of women considered evening or weekend appointments an important piece of their access to healthcare.
  • Sixty-three percent of women want their PCP to hold the medical history and records of all of their family members.
  • Sixty-three percent of respondents would like to have one PCP manage all of their family’s chronic medical conditions.
  • Sixty-two percent of women want a physician who can coordinate care with the other healthcare providers who are participating in a patient’s care.
  • 57 percent want the same doctor to provide healthcare for everyone in the family. Only 39 percent of women said all members of their family currently share the same PCP.
  • About half of those surveyed want their PCP to electronically communicate with them, schedule appointments and send their prescriptions to the pharmacy.

These survey results were a topic of discussion in our office, so I’m sharing some additional suggestions from female HIN staffers:

“I appreciate my pediatrician using a blackberry to send prescriptions directly to my pharmacist. As a busy, working, multitasking mother of three, every minute counts. Having a sick child who needs to visit the doctor already throws the week out of sync.”

“I would love to see better appointment scheduling and handling. Waiting in waiting room, waiting in the exam room. Surely, there’s a more efficient way to deliver care than waiting 20 minutes in a waiting room and another 20 minutes in an exam room.

“And while, e-prescribing is gaining traction in the marketplace, it has not yet reached the physicians that I visit. Nothing is more frustrating than having a sick child, dropping a prescription off at a pharmacy that is within shouting distance of our pediatrician and having to return to that same pharmacy an hour later to retrieve the prescription.”

Last but not least, a four-point strategy proposed by another female colleague who also helps manage her aging parents’ healthcare needs:

1. I would like my primary care physician and my parents’ primary care physician to offer evening and weekend hours to accommodate work schedules.

2. I would like tests such as MRI’s, ultrasounds, etc to be available digitally so that they can be sent from one doctor to another. Currently, some physician offices can only view films, while others have the ability to view digital formats. I would like to see a standardization. Presently, my father has vascular diagnostic tests on disc, but the next specialist he needs to see does not have the technology in his office to view the discs, and only wants to see film, which is not the format the test results are available in. I have encountered this problem on several occasions, and feel a standardization of test result formats would benefit everyone. In addition to this, large films (MRI’s, etc) are cumbersome and present storage problems for the families that must keep them.

3. I would like to see more primary care physicians participate in major insurance plans. Currently, many primary plan physicians in this area will offer a receipt to submit to the patients insurance company, but are not participating providers in any network.

4. I would like to see more coordination of care between the hospital, the primary care physician, and Sub-acute rehab centers. Currently, sub-acute rehab centers such as Meridian, do not coordinate with or allow visits from the patients primary doctor. This causes problems because the center’s visiting doctor does not know enough about the patient’s personal medical history, and this results in a reduced level of care when there are complications if the patient has other chronic conditions.

Thanks to my colleagues for their insightful comments, and to Dave Barry for a healthy dose of laughter this week.

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