Making Healthcare Equitable and Accessible

Prasanthi Sadhu

Prasanthi Sadhu

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Prasanthi Sadhu Editor, Asian Hospitals and Healthcare Management

Everyone deserves access to quality healthcare services without financial hardship. Consumers are spending more on health and wellness and increasingly demanding access to convenient, affordable care. Access to quality healthcare services is important for promoting and maintaining health, preventing and managing disease, reducing unnecessary disability and premature death, and achieving health equity.

The COVID-19 pandemic tested global healthcare systems like never before, highlighted long-standing inequalities in access for different groups the world over. The pandemic also brought to the fore how effective medical care has been out of reach for vulnerable populations showing its effect on the society and economy in particular. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 50 per cent of the global population still lacks full coverage of essential health services.

Inadequate health insurance coverage and limited availability of healthcare resources are the main barriers that may reduce access to health services. Equity of access to health services is central to universal health coverage, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our societies, owing to economic, geographic, epidemiological or cultural barriers. The WHO works with countries to identify the barriers and to provide evidence-based solutions to progressively expand access, while ensuring the highest possible quality of care. By working together, strong health systems can provide effective access to primary health care, as well as to timely secondary and tertiary care, reducing the burden of disease, while safe and effective surgery saves lives.

Even countries with a robust healthcare framework often have long waiting lists to consult a specialist or get a simple surgery carried out. Some countries have systems in place that do not provide the best quality care due to lack of resources or budget constraints. And several countries have a limited number of facilities that are understaffed and under-resourced, with those living in rural or remote areas having to travel long distances to obtain the healthcare assistance they require.

In the cover story of this issue, Dr Joseph Saba, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Axios International discusses how the healthcare community in Asia and worldwide became conscious of the existing gaps after the COVID-19 pandemic. He also discusses the current state of healthcare access within Asia — what has been the journey so far and what will be the trends in 2023 and beyond? He also shares insights on how the region should prepare itself for future health crises — how healthcare ecosystems can be made more resilient and how Asia can empower its people with sustainable access to healthcare.

Digital technologies have great potential to transform global health systems to be more accessible, affordable, scalable, and fit-for-purpose. Telehealth, in particular, could be helpful in increasing the accessibility of healthcare for underserved areas.

As we move towards the future, the focus on providing care is changing to health equity and making sure that no one is left behind in maintaining good health and well-being.

--Issue 59--