Bridging The Last Mile in Healthcare

Blog by  Joe Babaian
In healthcare, the last mile is  the link between you and the healthcare network touch point – where care is delivered –  the entire healthcare system of people, services, goods, and organizations . This last mile can be as simple and critical as a ride to the clinic or as complex as the smooth exchange of your personally generated healthcare data (wearables, etc.) with and between providers and tools.
The limited bandwidth or available resources of healthcare’ s last mile impacts your ability to connect in all the meaningful ways with the system at large. What types of last-mile access do we all need to the healthcare network? If we were cable modems, we would only need a coax connection to the nearest network interconnect. But as people, we have tremendously diverse needs for this first step of access and that’s before the real “work” of healthcare even begins. Some types of last-mile access are:

Physical access
Financial access
Cultural access/needed competencies
Data access/sharing with portals, providers, tools – data liquidity/portability/standardization
Emotional access – those with mental health needs and challenges
Language competencies/level
Educational attainment level (to even know how to use what is available)

An example of financial access as a barrier is seen in insulin access for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics in the U.S. As discussed in The High Cost of Insulin in the United States: An Urgent Call to Action from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings –

Reasons for the High Cost of Insulin
The number 1 reason for the high cost of insulin is the presence of a vulnerable population that needs insulin to survive. This population, which numbers in the millions, is willing to pay anything to have access to a lifesaving drug. The desperate need for a lifesaving product allows insulin to be priced at high levels because it is not a luxury item that one can forego. The manufacturers of insulin know that patients who need it will spend whatever it takes to acquire it, regardless of price. It is a matter of life and death.

Birdiging the last mile in healthcare is paramount and is often a barrier. When you can’t pass through the last mile connection to the healthcare system, you never even get an opportunity to take the next steps to engage with healthcare up close. Knowing a clinic exists is not the same as visiting the clinic and being evaluated. You can think of the implications!
While knowing what the last mile is , while one thing, being able to bridge it – that is something more difficult. One of the major factors that exacerbate this crunch in the last mile for healthcare springs from changing patient and caregiver expectations. Ted Quinn mentions as much in MedCity News :
Patients and caregivers now expect rapid and personalized communication, to be an active...