After the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, many patients preferred home-based care delivery to avoid infections in hospital settings. Now, people are more comfortable being treated in their homes, and telehealth allows diagnosis during quarantine. But what are some key issues that restrict the progress of outpatient care in the USA? With 1,500+ outpatient care centers in the USA, the ambulatory service reached a massive $3 trillion in 2020. But miscommunication renders doctors incapable of treating patients effectively. Besides this, several other obstacles and hindrances are barring the growth of ambulatory services.
Problems in ambulatory care and means to overcome them
What exactly do we mean by outpatient care? Ambulatory/outpatient services involve medical services where you don’t have to stay at the hospital. Without hospital admissions, you receive treatment in the doctor’s office, specialty clinics/centers, or a hospital’s outpatient department. Experts predict that outpatient practices will soon replace inpatient services. Many surgeries that previously required a prolonged hospital stay can now be performed elsewhere. Moreover, complex procedures are now possible in imaging facilities, urgent care centers, emergency departments, and even domestic settings. But a few issues threaten the universal acceptance of outpatient care delivery, some of which we’ll discuss.
Patients might feel uncomfortable being treated by strangers in domestic settings. But untrained or underqualified caregivers potentially increase this discomfort. Today, caregivers can enhance their medical expertise by pursuing distance learning courses. Several medical programs are underway to help students improve their health-related proficiency.
For instance, nurses can enroll in online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner programs to expand their skill set and area of practice. This program helps them prepare for advancements in nursing and understanding medical procedures more acutely.
Untrained caregivers are followed by negligent doctors/nurses who abandon their ethical duties and moral responsibilities while catering to patients’ needs. Patients often claim that caregivers are spending an excessive amount of time on their smartphones. The solution involves managers being watchful of a caregiver’s behavior – especially in domestic settings where nurses enjoy more liberty.
Managers should encourage patients to express their concerns about a caregiver’s reckless attitude or outright immoral behavior.
Problems with medications
Assessing malpractice lawsuits in the USA reveals that many of them were against a healthcare practitioner. A Coverys survey shows that 42% of these medical mistakes happened in ambulatory settings. Most of these errors involved wrong drugs and misdiagnosis. But experts also believe that individuals alone aren’t to blame for these faults; instead, they were systemic.
So, they require a systemic solution that involves improving communication between RNs and doctors. Also, establishing standardized procedures can help reduce errors and mistakes.
Many outpatient settings involve treatments of the elderly by caregivers in the home. They’ve often found cultural/religious gaps hindering the efficacy of medical procedures. The solution lies in hiring bilingual nurses or nurses that speak another language besides English (preferably Spanish) to treat patients from non-Caucasian backgrounds.
Moreover, ineffective communication stems from various factors, e.g., missing laboratory reports and delayed correspondence between healthcare professionals. Using digital devices can enhance communication and enable doctors/nurses to reduce errors.
We’ve created a separate entry for telephone processes because they don’t involve communication failures necessarily. Sometimes unqualified/underqualified individuals give wrong or even harmful suggestions over the phone. It creates confusion that may lead to fatalities.
The solution involves verifying with whom you’re speaking and checking the information you’ve received via telephone to ensure it’s accurate and comes from credible sources.
Statistics show that almost 75% of workplace attacks/assaults happen in healthcare settings, making outpatient practice the most dangerous medical institution in the USA. So, patients who are prone to violent outbursts make ambulatory caregivers more vulnerable to these unfortunate incidents.
Similarly, family nurses who treat mentally unhinged patients at home have shown concerns about their safety. So, managers must create a well-resourced program to prevent violence and aggressive behavior. Conduct risk assessment sessions to ensure that fewer violent accidents take place.
In outpatient settings, several individuals have access to a patient’s medical history. Sometimes, the wrong person gets their hands on this information. The issue of privacy appears more tragic in ambulatory practices than among inpatient caregivers. So, what’s the solution? The obvious answer to this question lies in establishing strict protocols that regulate which person is qualified enough to handle a patient’s private records.
Also, prevent outpatient caregivers from sharing these records on social media. Even posting about a patient and their condition anonymously should be prohibited.
Many patients complain that caregivers “failed to diagnose” a specific disease. Statistics show that these claims arise in radiology, pediatric, and family medicine cases. Further studies reveal that many of these missed/delayed diagnoses seriously injured patients, while nearly one-third of them resulted in fatalities.
Double-checking everything and conducting follow-up diagnoses may prevent these accidents from repeating themselves. Doctors/nurses must frequently ask: “What else can this be?” or avoid future complications. These solutions might help eliminate diagnostic errors.
Statistics show that the number of visits to ambulatory services is drastically declining. A rebound has occurred, but the number of visits is still insufficiently lower than previous records. We’ve highlighted the general challenges faced by ambulatory caregivers after COVID’s emergence. While many healthcare leaders are gearing to overcome them, a lot requires quick action. Miscommunication is also widespread in such settings, calling for proper training of outpatient service providers. Further education and increased reliance upon digital devices can improve the overall efficacy of outpatient care delivery.