The rate of inflation surged to 9.1% from 8.6% last month and 5.04% last year. This is the highest since December ‘81 and compared to the market forecast of 8.3%.1 While it is evident that food, gas and housing costs are increasing, healthcare systems and patients are also experiencing increased expenses across the nation.
Given the structure of the healthcare payments, consumers have yet to feel the full brunt of inflation that health care providers are experiencing in increased labor and supply costs. However, as consumers face higher daily costs for fuel, food and housing, it is important to understand how inflation may impact America's health behavior. At the same time, narrowing margins and staffing shortages demand better tools to streamline and simplify patient engagement.
High fuel costs impacts patient visits
The spike in gas prices has dampened in-person visits among low-income populations, forcing them to rely on virtual visits or provider-paid ride-share services to get themselves to appointments, according to Forbes.2 To address transportation restrictions as well as hospital staffing issues, it is helpful to explore opportunities to integrate telehealth within clinical team’s existing EHR workflows to reduce unnecessary clicks and risk of lagging applications.
North Mississippi Health Services is a great example of a health system leveraging telehealth more effectively by enabling physicians to open a telehealth visit directly in the EHR, sharing patient education digitally through the patient portal all while enhancing the experience of telehealth for patients and clinicians. The Krames on FHIR workflow allows clinicians to engage patients who may not have affordable transportation options while ensuring they provide the patient education needed to support their patients needs.
Rising food prices creates troubling consumer tradeoffs
Consumer food purchasing behaviors are changing as the search for substitutions or cheaper alternatives are on the rise. The food-at-home index rose 11.9 % in 12 months while the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased the most, rising 14.%.3 A sizable minority of Americans aged 65 and older make daily sacrifices to afford healthcare. About 1 in 4 adults in this age bracket cut back on at least one basic need to pay for healthcare, including reduced spending on food (9%).4
Health systems and providers can empower consumers and their patients to make healthy and budget-wise food decisions through quality health education information. There is an increasing importance of providing substitutions or alternatives for recipes and lifestyle suggestions. Here’s a recent example from the Association of Black Cardiologists who have developed a cookbook, “Cooking for Your Heart and Soul”, promoting the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease with tips on transitioning to plant-based meals through simple steps that engage the whole family.
Key SDOH, high housing costs, impacting health care decisions
As a well-researched social determinant of health (SDOH), surveys found that more than half of renters delayed health care because they couldn’t afford it, and 100% of medical professionals surveyed said they have dealt with patients in the past who expressed concerns and anxiety about affordable housing. When these doctors and nurses advised patients to reduce stress, 92% of them said financial issues were their biggest stress trigger.5 By linking housing and health outcomes, health care organizations can look for ways to improve patient care, cut costs and ultimately reduce stress.
As more patients decide to cancel or postpone elective care until they’re sure of their financial situation, health systems need better tools and content to identify those in need and engage them effectively. Nurses and clinicians need to start by being comfortable discussing SDOH with patients.
Partnering with Krames to overcome inflation-related challenges
Krames provides technology-driven solutions that activate patient acquisition, experience, and education—to boost engagement and health, and reduce health risks and costs. Partnering with EHR provider Epic to integrate patient education into Epic’s telehealth module, healthcare providers have shared strong positive feedback as they can access clinically reviewed patient education without leaving the telehealth visit. With tools such as the Consumer Health Library offering articles, images, and infographics to effectively reach diverse audiences wherever they are, however they need, automation and patient self-service features can help address the daunting task of patients deciding between paying for basic needs or healthcare visits.
- Current US Inflation Rates: 2000-2022. https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/#:~:text=The%20annual%20inflation%20rate%20for,13%20at%208%3A30%20a.m. Accessed July 18, 2022.
- How Far Has Telehealth Actually Come? https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/05/02/how-far-has-telehealth-actually-come/?sh=44a0c9ea10d1 Accessed on July 18, 2022.
- Consumer Price Index Summary.
https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm Accessed on July 18, 2022.
- Deferred care, inflation fuel mounting cost pressure for Americans' healthcare. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/deferred-care-inflation-fuel-mounting-cost-pressure-for-americans-healthcare.html?origin=BHRE&utm_source=BHRE&utm_medium=email&utm_content=newsletter&oly_enc_id=6955F3980123G1K Accessed on July 18, 2022.
- Why high rents are a health care problem. https://archive.curbed.com/2019/4/3/18293753/health-care-affordable-housing-survey-enterprise Accessed on July 18, 2022.