How Does Inflation Impact Health Care?
By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com
The last several years brought some of the most notable inflation spikes in decades and the effects trickled into every industry. Health care is seeing the side effects of inflation, causing patients to scramble over prescription costs and service charges.
Inflation damages numerous industries’ profit margins and the same may happen to health care as citizens fear costly bills. Is insurance enough to help curb price hikes or is there anything more the healthcare industry can do to serve the nation better?
Changes in Health Care Due to Inflation
Americans were already reluctant to visit the doctor because of fees and it is more likely now. As every item from eggs to cars drastically climbs in price, fewer people will seek treatment for even severe concerns. Over 98 million Americans cut out necessities to meet bill deadlines or elected not to visit medical professionals due to financial stressors. It is evident inflation does not just influence the sector internally — citizens’ perspectives on the economy are as critical.
Most of inflation’s changes to health care are outside hospital walls and in patients’ minds. It is already expensive to receive care, so it is easy to conceptualize the situation could become more dire. Health-adjacent products like gym memberships and whole foods are also becoming more pricey. By association, staying healthy becomes a privilege.
Pharmaceuticals are another hurdle. Medication providers assign prices, not hospitals. Professionals merely convey what patients need, and when a patient faces a price increase in a medication they have taken for years, it could be life-changing to go without if they cannot justify it.
Factors Compounding the Effects of Inflation
The lingering effects of the pandemic leave the healthcare industry in a lengthy recovery period. This sector’s inability to bounce back before inflation began taking its toll exacerbated growing concerns. The pandemic placed pressure on medical staff, leaving them with shortages as patients become more vigilant about their health care concerns. Medical teams still feel the effects of this demand spike, but they are regaining some normality.
Supply chain shortages of pharmaceuticals and other medical gear — also worsened by the pandemic — did not help rising national prices. Implementing AI and IoT devices could bring supply chains back to normal in health care. Though the industry tries to be more resilient than most when facing growing costs, it can only delay changes for so long before revenue is too affected.
Ways Health Care Employees Can Respond
Health care is one of the slowest to adopt new technology, despite how much it could advance efficiency. Everywhere from hospitals to private practices could employ new tools to mitigate service gaps, such as automated schedulers or virtual assistants for customer service. Devices like these will not replace humans, but they could improve the staff’s quality of life and ability to focus more on patients.
Data drives health care. The faster health bodies can collect registration and payment information that would otherwise take time and effort via pen-and-paper methods, the faster they can administer care.
Another way staff can handle rising inflation is by reducing patient stress. Countless nonprofits, governmental assistance and online tools exist to help patients quote and pay for health care costs. Many do not know these options exist, and health care staff can use technology to find these resources and inform the public how to seek out these avenues. Advertising these tools and helping patients translate complex insurance will perpetuate the transparency of medical costs patients expect from health care professionals.
It is also the responsibility of medical staffers to communicate the cost-benefit analysis of health care to patients. Investing in health care is the most worthwhile way to spend funds.
Though some costs are excessive, it is the job of the healthcare industry to help change this national mindset of insurance and bill payment anxiety. There are ways to fund care more sustainably, and health care staff can start by providing customers some hope and perspective on what their health care investment warrants — a happier life.
Ensuring Affordable Health Care Despite Inflation
If medical enterprises cannot communicate with patients, adopt new technologies or find other innovative ways to keep prices reasonable, Americans’ health will be at risk. It is a monumental effort from health care providers to try and halt inflation’s impact on the sector when everywhere else is feeling the burden. It will be worth it as long as patients receive the care they need with a payment schedule that is as reasonable as possible.