How Socioeconomic Factors Impact Patient-Care Decisions

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Patient care is the delivery of healthcare services by health professionals. It entails preventing, treating, or managing different health issues. However, research has demonstrated that various socioeconomic factors impact the standard of patient care and patients’ health-related decisions. This article examines these socioeconomic factors and how they affect patients’ general health and well-being.

Socioeconomic status (SES) affects the quality of healthcare individuals receive. Many socioeconomic factors determine individuals’ SES. We highlight the common ones and the role they play in individuals’ health-related decisions below:

Income and financial status

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Individuals’ income and financial situation influence access to healthcare services. Better medical care, preventive services, and specialist consultations are typically available to those who are more financially stable. They do not delay getting medical care because they are worried about the cost. This prevents their health problems from getting worse. They can choose from a wider range of treatment options.

Instead of managing ailments like low-income individuals, high-income earners can choose to receive immediate treatments. Their financial status makes them more likely to adhere to treatments. Costs of medications contribute to increasing non-adherence, reducing treatment effectiveness, and raising the risk of consequences. Non-adherence is estimated to cause 50% of treatment failures and over 125,000 in the US yearly. However, individuals with high financial status are unlikely to be among these statistics.

Education and health literacy

Their education and health literacy influence patients’ ability to understand medical information. These factors allow them to have the best treatment plans and care available. Patients with lesser education find it difficult to comprehend complicated medical terminology and potential treatment options.

Better healthcare decisions and a greater likelihood of treatment adherence are associated with higher education or health literacy levels. People with higher health literacy know their treatment options, follow instructions strictly, and often get better results. In addition, they take the best treatment compared to those with less education.

Health literates understand the value of screenings and preventive care better. Hence, they engage in preventive practices to ensure early detection and intervention. This gives them better healthcare outcomes than individuals with lower health literacy.

Patient care is easily accessible when working in a high-paying position with appropriate health insurance. Patients who have steady jobs and are covered by comprehensive health insurance have access to better healthcare services. This enables them to choose the best options for patient care and improves the results they get.

Additionally, people with high job flexibility are more likely to attend follow-up appointments. This is essential for keeping track of treatment development and making any necessary modifications. As a result, they typically experience better healthcare outcomes than people with strict work schedules.

The availability of workers’ insurance also influences patients’ ability to access prompt medical care, paid sick time, and health benefits.

People in precarious employment conditions frequently delay getting treatment out of concern for their job safety and financial stability. People working with no basic healthcare benefits may be limited to few treatment options, which may not be the best for their condition.

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Community/Location

Individuals’ ability to access high-quality patient care and make better healthcare decisions depends on where they reside. Urban dwellers have better patient care options and can get better results from their treatments than people in remote areas. Rural dwellers have less influence over patient care decisions due to limited options. They struggle to get high-quality medical care, follow treatment plans, or keep appointments.

Patient care decision disparities

In addition to the socioeconomic factors above, there are other disparities that impact the standard of the patient medical care patients may obtain. They include:

Racial and ethnic disparities

Patients from underrepresented groups experience difficulties getting access to high-quality medical care, resulting in differences in treatment options, medical outcomes, and illness management. Healthcare professionals’ unconscious bias affects their medical decisions, encouraging them to give treatment recommendations based on patients’ racial or cultural backgrounds. Hence, it’s more desirable to have healthcare professionals aware and respectful of diverse patient populations’ cultural norms and preferences to provide personalized and patient-centered treatment.

Geographical disparities

Fewer healthcare facilities, specialists, and cutting-edge medical technologies are available to patients in remote locations. This impacts their patient care choices and treatment efficiency. The gaps in accessing primary care, specialty treatments, and preventative services in these socioeconomically socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are due to the need for a suitable and adequate healthcare infrastructure. However, people in more developed geographic regions can access better medical services. Introducing innovations like telemedicine can help reduce these geographic gaps, even though there are still several issues like access to reliable internet and technology that can affect the efficiency of suggested innovations.

Gender-based disparities

Gender norms and societal roles influence individuals’ healthcare choices. It affects their likelihood to seek care and the treatments they prioritize. Access to gender-specific healthcare services, such as maternal health and reproductive care, is prioritized by women. As a result, you can expect differences between male and female patient care decisions. Gender and socioeconomic factors present numerous difficulties for marginalized individuals. Hence,  discrepancies in patient care must be addressed using a variety of strategies.

The psychological impact of socioeconomic factors on patients

Socioeconomic factors also impact people’s psychological wellness in addition to their healthcare access and decisions. We highlight their effects on patients’ psychological health below:

Stress and mental health issues

Patients affected by the negative impacts of their socioeconomic circumstances tend to struggle with their mental wellness and physical health. They have fewer coping mechanisms to fight mental stress due to limited access to beneficial resources. This makes them less capable of fighting these socioeconomic factors’ resulting negative health consequences.

Health providers and other appropriate authorities must address the psychological effects of these socioeconomic factors and find sustainable solutions. One way to lessen these issues’ negative consequences is to offer accessible and cheap healthcare services. This will eliminate stress and other emotional pollutants that affect patient care decisions.

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Stigmatization

Dealing with stigma is another effect of socioeconomic factors on patients’ psychological well-being. The stigma associated with certain health conditions or socioeconomic status discourages patients from seeking early treatment. It also makes them less willing to talk freely about their health issues. Psychological hurdles brought on by stigma can keep people from seeking assistance or requesting support, causing them to make poor healthcare decisions.

However, healthcare workers can play a crucial role in improving the situation by creating an inclusive and supportive patient care environment. This will lessen the stigma and motivate patients to seek medical attention without hesitation or fear. Making patients feel safe, secure, and unjudged about their condition will increase their willingness to seek the best patient care options. It will boost their self-assurance to make the correct choice irrespective of their condition.

Addressing the impacts of socioeconomic factors on patient care decisions

Healthcare professionals and other relevant authorities must address the impact of socioeconomic factors on patients’ healthcare decisions. While policies are in place to mitigate their effects, looking into alternative strategies to aid progress is equally important.

Below, we highlight some of the alternative strategies and current regulations checking the effects of socioeconomic factors on patient healthcare decisions.

Existing policy interventions

Current policies aimed at reducing the influence of socioeconomic factors on patient care decisions focus mainly on ensuring equal access and opportunity for all individuals. Here are some of them :

Medicaid expansion and access to care

The Medicaid expansion policy is aimed at providing healthcare coverage to low-income individuals. It enables people under this category to access basic medical care and treatments easily. Additionally, the initiative lessens the stress that comes with having a low income, enhancing patients’ mental and physical health. Every person covered by this policy has the privilege to receive high-quality medical treatment and achieve better healthcare outcomes.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Health insurance coverage

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aims to increase socioeconomically diverse groups’ access to preventative care, manage pre-existing conditions, and improve health insurance coverage. The act gives vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and people with disabilities a priority. It aims to lessen the effects of socioeconomic status differences in patient care decisions and increase people’s chances of receiving better patient care regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.

Innovative approaches to socioeconomic factors on Patient Care Decisions

Effective collaboration

Major players in the healthcare ecosystem can collaborate with other sectors to address the underlying impacts of socioeconomic factors affecting patient care decisions. Collaborative efforts like building more community health centers and organizing impactful healthcare outreaches can yield commendable changes in patient care decisions. It will improve access to quality patient care and help patients get better healthcare results. Collaboration with other sectors can create feasible solutions to these socioeconomic challenges and ensure individuals’ socioeconomic status less influences patient care decisions.

Improving health literacy

Improving health literacy is crucial to addressing the effects of socioeconomic factors on patient care decisions. It ensures there are more health-literate service providers and patients in every community. While sponsoring every individual to school looks unrealistic, there are alternative learning methods to explore.

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Online accelerated bsn program is an example of alternative methods individuals can explore to gain professional knowledge about the health sector. This online course provides learners with practical nursing knowledge. You can learn family nursing, medical-surgical nursing, health assessment, nursing informatics, etc. The program allows everyone to learn about the health sector dynamics.

Improved health literacy and education level of individuals in certain communities can improve their patient care decisions. Beyond financial status, ignorance has been a leading cause of poor decision-making and access to easier and affordable learning opportunities can reduce it drastically.

Employees’ care

Employers’ policies and terms of employment affect workers’ well-being and ability to make good patient care decisions. Hence, the appropriate authorities must address all that concerns workers to ensure they’re working under the best conditions. One way to do that is by tackling the lack of provisions for workers’ injuries and failing health when needed. The appropriate authorities must address this concern with employers.

Employers must also provide flexible work schedules, enabling employees to access the healthcare system without fear of losing their jobs. Strict penalties for negligent employers and establishing a body to safeguard workers’ interests and defend them in the event of wrongdoing can make significant differences.

Professionalism from healthcare providers

Healthcare providers have huge responsibilities in fighting the effects of socioeconomic factors on patient care decisions. They must navigate ethical considerations when working with socioeconomically socioeconomically diverse patients. This ensures that their treatment recommendations are equitable and respectful of patients’ values.

Healthcare providers must communicate with their socioeconomically diverse patients in the language they understand. This will ensure that they understand their patient care options. Knowing the potential risks, benefits, and available alternative treatments helps patients make informed decisions.

Therefore, speaking plainly and being mindful of cultural differences is crucial to guarantee that patients understand their circumstances and make the best patient care decisions.

Review decision-making model

The appropriate authorities should reform the healthcare system and switch to a shared decision-making approach that encourages honest and open dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals. Treatment adherence and patient satisfaction will improve with patients actively involved in healthcare decisions. However, healthcare professionals must consider patients’ socioeconomic situations and limitations when making decisions.

Health is wealth, not vice versa.

It is impossible to eliminate the influence of socioeconomic considerations on patient care decisions. However, by implementing the recommendations above, key players in the healthcare ecosystem can significantly lessen the impact.

Socioeconomic factors shouldn’t impact individuals’ ability to make the best patient care decisions, access high-quality medical care, and get the best outcomes. Good health is essential, and it shouldn’t come at a premium.

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