Access to Care
In the Greater Pittsburgh Area, there is no shortage of hospitals and medical facilities. However, many individuals are unable to access healthcare due to barriers including lack of transportation, being uninsured, high healthcare costs, limited health literacy, and language barriers.
At Squirrel Hill Health Center (SHHC), I serve as a Patient Support Specialist on the Mobile Medical Unit, which provides primary care services to different communities in the Greater Pittsburgh Area where lack of transportation is a barrier to healthcare. My role is to provide care navigation services to the patients seen on the “care mobile”, helping them to schedule any necessary appointments with specialists or any necessary diagnostic tests. While making these appointments, it is crucial for me to take insurance status and interpreter access into consideration, since a large portion of the SHHC patient population is composed of refugees and immigrants with limited English proficiency. Through my time serving, I have seen that while phone interpreter services allow providers to provide competent care to patients that speak different languages, there is still a lot that needs to be done to eliminate language barriers in healthcare. For example, while patients in office have access to an interpreter; there is often limited to no access to language translation services when patients must contact their provider to ask medical questions or to schedule appointments.
One recent example is a mother who had accessed healthcare for her child through the emergency room for a foot injury. Her child was referred to an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation given the child’s pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, she was unable to make an appointment with a surgeon due to a lack of interpreter services to contact the office. Fortunately, she was put into contact with our mobile clinic and I was able to utilize our interpreter service to arrange this much needed appointment.
There have been many advancements that have helped minimize barriers to healthcare, including the utilization of a mobile medical clinic to bring healthcare to communities that lack transportation and have language barriers to points of care. However, there is still more work to be done to ensure equal access to healthcare for all, such as expanding access to interpreter services for patients, so that something as basic as a mother making an appointment for their injured child is possible.
By Shannon Romano