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Social Barriers that Hinder Healthcare Integration

Intro to Barriers to Healthcare Integration

Although healthcare integration is important for positive health outlooks, several social barriers make access to care more difficult. These can range from patients’ perceptions of the medical community to the bias that healthcare workers have toward patients. Regardless of the social barrier, healthcare professionals must be accountable and aware of these social barriers. By being aware, we can create technologies that overcome these barriers and integrate healthcare technologies efficiently and effectively. 

Social Barriers Faced by Patients

One of the most common social barriers that inhibit the integration of healthcare services is the lack of access to care for rural populations [1]. This includes basic services such as transportation and shelter [1] which can make it harder for patients to receive and follow up with care. Additionally, healthcare services may not all be provided at one location in a rural community which can hinder preventive care [1]. Furthermore, rural communities may lack service providers that meet their needs and healthcare concerns [1]. Moreover, patients in rural communities may just not be aware of all the healthcare services and programs that their area provides. Overall, these social barriers hinder preventative and continuous care for patients in rural populations.

Some social barriers exist because of stigmas and bias towards healthcare that makes one reluctant to receive care. For instance, there is a stigma associated with certain conditions such as mental health and substance abuse. Patients facing any of these may be reluctant to ask for help, potentially because they don’t believe someone will be able to help them or because they don’t realize that they need help. Unfortunately, this can prevent patients from receiving integrated care. Another barrier to care is a lack of trust. This can arise from a previous history of mistreatment that makes patients hesitant to reach out to healthcare professionals. Additionally, integrated care may require the use of technology and older patients may be reluctant to keep up with advancements in technology, resulting in them becoming digitally illiterate. Overall, social barriers hinder accessibility to care for patients.

Implicit Bias in Healthcare Professionals

Although some social barriers are due to personal bias and the lack of resources faced by patients, other social barriers are due to implicit bias faced by professionals. Implicit bias affects the way that providers interact with their patients. This means that doctors might use race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc. to make judgments about a patient. It’s important to note that implicit bias is unconscious and oftentimes professionals who have implicit bias aren’t aware that they have it [2]. Implicit bias often ruins patient-provider relationships and can hurt a patient’s chances of receiving the care they need.

Implicit bias acts as a social barrier to healthcare integration because it negatively impacts healthcare outcomes. For instance, implicit bias can create disparities in how certain populations and minorities receive care and diagnosis. For instance, a group of black veterans expressed how race played a role in their care [2]. Some patients felt stereotyped by mental health professionals, and others said providers saw them as a physical threat due to their appearance [2]. This can make patients more reluctant to reach out to future providers and ruins the trust that patients have. Furthermore, high-risk patients may not receive the proper attention and care they need, which can lead to mistreatment and worsening symptoms. Overall, although not all providers have implicit bias, providers must be aware of their own bias so they don’t create further disparities for their patients.

Overcoming Social Barriers

Therefore, although healthcare integration is important for fostering positive health outcomes, various social barriers hinder its effectiveness. These challenges range from patients in rural communities to implicit bias in healthcare professionals. Furthermore, recognizing and addressing these barriers is crucial so that patients receive continuous and preventative care. Healthcare can be integrated in a way that prioritizes equity and quality care by promoting awareness, implementing inclusive strategies, and acknowledging the role of implicit bias.


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  1. https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/services-integration/1/barriers 
  2. https://patientengagementhit.com/news/what-is-implicit-bias-how-does-it-affect-healthcare 
Categories: Health Equity,