Health Care Priorities of People With Chronic Conditions

Study finds health care access was of paramount importance to people with chronic conditions and their caregivers.

Little has been known about the health care priorities of people with chronic conditions and their caretakers, and whether patients and caretakers have different priorities. A new Australian study published in BMC Health Services Research investigates this issue and also asks if health care priorities change depending on geographic location.

The study of 71 patients and caregivers found that appropriate and timely health care access was of paramount importance to people with chronic conditions and their caregivers, and was of primary importance to create a model of ideal health care. Continuity and coordinated care, patient-centered care, and affordability were equally the second most important healthcare priorities for all groups.

In situations when inappropriate access occurred for certain groups, all other efforts to increase quality of health care delivery may be pointless, the study’s authors noted.

“Everything rested on the premise that people could adequately access healthcare services for treatment,” they said.

Caregivers discussed priorities that were more related to their roles as caregivers, such as increased access and continuity and coordinated care. They wanted to see macro-level changes within the health system such as easier access to new medications and different ways to navigate the health care system.

Patients in a particularly rural area of Australia were found to be more concerned with access to health care than other geographical groups. The patients complained about long waits to see a general practitioner and about the large investments in time and travel required to see practitioners, who were as much as 900 kilometers away.

“We recognize that health professionals may be limited in their ability to address the concerns related to access, which may require structural changes by health policy makers,” the study concludes. “One of these changes can involve implementing stronger financial incentives for health professionals to work in rural and/or lower socioeconomic areas.”