Whether it results from a lack of education or a lack of resources, a large disparity gap exists between many people groups in Hillsborough County and across the country. Closing the gap will take hard work over a long period of time, and that work needs to begin today. How can you get involved? If you are a doctor, you hold an important position of influence in your community. For every patient that enters your office, you have an opportunity to educate and inform. Here are some ways you can do your part.
Teach Preventative Care
Doctors often get involved after an illness or injury has already presented itself. Preventative care is much cheaper, and it can negate the need for expensive medical procedures down the line. Make teaching preventative healthcare a priority in your office. You won't have time to discuss all the basics with every patient, but you can provide brochures on the importance of nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, sleep patterns, and a smoke-free lifestyle. Families could also receive information on bicycle safety, staying healthy in hot weather, and how to prepare for hurricane season. These simple instructions could prevent serious injuries today and life-threatening illnesses down the road.
Keep Clear Lines of Communication
Patients who don't speak English, or speak English as a second language, might struggle with understanding a doctor's instructions or advice. Encourage these patients to bring along a trustworthy interpreter who can translate or take notes in their first language. If you suspect a language barrier, repeat your instructions again slowly with basic vocabulary. Write down your instructions. Even if the written instructions are in English, the patient may be able to find a translator later. If needed, refer the patient to another doctor who speaks their primary language. Trust your instincts. Sometimes a patient will claim they understand you out of embarrassment, or because they don't want to waste anyone's time.
Inform Patients about Free or Discounted Health Resources
Make information about free clinics, free or discounted medications, or cheap health insurance options freely available for all of your patients. Many basic healthcare needs can be met for affordable prices, if your patients only knew where to go. It is your responsibility to make sure everyone under your care knows their options, prioritizes their health, and receives care when they need it.