In community health care clinicians are often overwhelmed with overbooked schedules, inconsistencies in electronic health records, billing and coding tasks and insurance company demands.
It is these complexities that often make practicing medicine difficult. At the same time, it is hard to imagine modern medicine without these aspects of care. That is, unless you travel to a place like Haiti.
During a recent medical mission trip to Haiti, I was reminded that medicine can, at times, be simple. If you take away the computers, the paperwork, the appointment times and the insurance companies, what you have left is the organic practice of medicine. You have a patient, a pen and a piece of paper. You do an assessment, you develop a plan and you treat the patient.
On one hand, this simplified approach to medicine was refreshing. On the other hand it reminded me that medicine, whether simple or complex, must first overcome one major barrier: Access.
December 1st marked World AIDS Day. In 2012, it was reported that 75% of U.S. HIV patients lacked effective health care. If more than half of the patients with HIV in our own population are not receiving adequate health care, one can only imagine what this means for individuals worldwide.
Lack of transportation and high healthcare costs contribute to the access barrier, but the true problem lies in the need for healthcare providers. In Haiti, long lines of patients formed and people waited for hours, because for many, this would be one of the only opportunities they would have to see a healthcare provider. That is, at least until the next medical mission team came through.
There will always be illness and the need for medicine. Overbooked schedules and unsatisfied patients occur because the demand for health care is greater than the supply of healthcare providers. The US needs more healthcare providers. The world needs more healthcare providers.
We must start by encouraging others to study medicine. We must teach them and remind them that the practice of medicine can be made simple. We must tell them that they are our nation’s key to overcoming the access barrier.
Leigh Montejo, MSN, FNP-BC, is a National Public Health Service Corp scholar completing her service commitment as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Tampa Family Health Centers Inc. in Florida. Her areas of interest include adolescent health, health promotion and improving access to healthcare in underserved populations.