Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Trending: Financial Solutions Bridge Gap Between Women’s Health and Wealth

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When women thrive, communities prosper. And that’s why tackling the challenge of empowering women’s health is so important.

“Women spend on average 8% less time on their healthcare each month than men, which negatively impacts their health outcomes,” Synchrony Health and Wellness CEO Beto Casellas told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster.

Women, especially single mothers, face various challenges when it comes to accessing and affording necessary health and wellness care. They often prioritize their families’ needs over their own, primarily due to the same time and financial constraints.

These issues were among the findings of a new study by PYMNTS Intelligence and Synchrony’s CareCredit, which examined the economic factors that impact women’s health. The “2024 Women’s Wellness Index” drew on a survey of 10,045 U.S. consumers conducted from Nov. 10 to Dec. 6.

“Responsibilities, particularly for single mothers, in terms of where they spend their time and money, lead to lower overall health indices,” Casellas said.

Financial constraints are a barrier to women prioritizing their healthcare. What may seem like a small amount to higher earners can represent a heavy burden for many working mothers.

Casellas emphasized the need for better financial solutions and payment options that empower women to better manage their health. By embracing strategies like providing flexible payment options, enhancing financial literacy, promoting wellness and using technology, the healthcare industry can better enable women to prioritize their health and well-being, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their families.

“There is not a one-size, cookie-cutter approach in terms of solving for this,” Casellas said. “There is a lot of complexity around the ecosystem.”

Women’s Health and Wellness: Addressing Barriers and Solutions

A barrier to accessing healthcare is the lack of financial literacy among patients. Casellas emphasized the need for providers to educate patients about healthcare costs and payment options. He advocated for transparent and open discussions about healthcare expenses and available financial assistance programs.

“Financial literacy is not just a phenomenon in healthcare; it’s a broader issue,” Casellas said. “Providing assistance programs, health savings plans and flexible spending accounts are critical steps in bridging this gap. Providers should be equipped to have these conversations early and clearly to help patients understand their options.”

Financial literacy can also help women better use the options available to them to get the care they need.

“Providing options like promotional financing over six or 12 months, which enables people to split their payments over time, can help women manage their healthcare expenses better,” Casellas said. “This approach not only alleviates the immediate financial burden but also encourages women to seek timely medical care, preventing conditions from worsening.”

Read more: Women’s Life Stage Priorities in Health and Wellness

Time constraints are another hurdle for women in accessing healthcare. The unpredictability of medical appointments, long waiting times and the time required for diagnoses and treatment can deter women from seeking medical care and discourage them from visiting healthcare providers. This lack of time can be particularly exacerbated for mothers.

Seventy-one percent of moms get preventive medical care, and around one-quarter do not seek care at all for themselves, while 78% of mothers prioritize their household’s health over their own well-being.

Casellas acknowledged this issue and pointed out the broader systemic problems, including staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. He suggested that third-party financing could play a role in mitigating these challenges by streamlining administrative processes, thus allowing healthcare providers to focus more on patient care.

Using Healthcare Innovations and Embracing Preventive Solutions

PYMNTS Intelligence found that every additional $500 spent on women’s health results in a positive effect on their overall well-being. Higher income brackets correlate with better health attentiveness, highlighting the role of financial stability in accessing healthcare services — particularly around wellness and preventive care.

“Consumers are more proactive and knowledgeable about what they can do holistically around their wellness and how it reduces long-term care costs,” said Casellas.

“Preventive care helps identify and address health issues early, reducing the prevalence of chronic conditions,” he added. “Younger generations are increasingly proactive about their health, which is promising. Integrating wellness practices like nutrition, mental health care and regular checkups can significantly improve overall health.”

There is increasingly a role for technology, including artificial intelligence, to play in democratizing access to care — with low-hanging fruit being its capacity to streamline administrative processes, reduce staffing challenges and improve patient care.

“Digital technology, analytics and AI are crucial in supporting healthcare providers and improving patient experiences,” Casellas said. “These tools can help manage time better, provide more information to patients and streamline processes, ultimately enhancing overall healthcare delivery.”

Looking to the future, where novel treatments like GLP-1 drugs are reframing consumers’ relationships with their own health goals, Casellas emphasized the importance of “consulting healthcare providers and discussing payment plans.”

After all, in health as in life, knowing what you are getting into and the options you have on hand to support you will always be crucial.

To learn more, read the PYMNTS Intelligence/CareCredit “2024 Women’s Health Index.”

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