The overwhelming majority of women — 90% of them — are the primary health care decision makers in their family. Six in 10 of them have trouble navigating the health system, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Sorting out the labyrinth that is U.S. health care is especially challenging for younger women (18-34) — 3 in 4 of whom find the system difficult to navigate.
The AAFP commissioned a survey, Fixing Health Care: What Women Want, by Harris Interactive to examine American women’s views on the U.S. health system: what’s working, what’s not, and what’s needed.
It’s not surprising that older women better understand the health system; they’ve got more experience using it. Nevertheless, 1 in 2 senior women over 55 years of age have a somewhat difficult time in the system, according to the survey.
One of the most important aspects of personal health is prevention. Overall, 4 in 10 adult women who are the health decision makers say that members in their family do not receive preventive care. As the table illustrates, in one-half of these women’s families, family members only see the doctor when they’re sick. Other reasons given for family members not getting preventive health care include financial reasons (43%), being healthy (25%), time issues (12%) and inconvenience (9%).
Regarding health care overall, 6 in 10 women say they face challenges in receiving care for themselves and/or their family. These barriers are illustrated in the chart on the left. When women talk about about the challenges receiving health care in the U.S. overall, they classify them in three ways: financial, time, and inconvenience. The top challenge to getting health care for women and their families is financial — lack of health insurance, high copayments, and the like. Financial barriers to getting health care were cited by nearly 1 in 2 women health decision makers.
The second greatest challenge to receiving health care in America for female health decision makers is time, in two flavors: first, constraints (such as not being able to leave the workplace for a medical appointment); and second, time to wait for an appointment.
Finally, convenience factors are barriers to many women: these include inconvenient hours of operations by physicians and hospital clinics, hassles of transportation, and distance to physicians’ offices.
This survey was conducted among 1,270 women 18 years and over in March 2008.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Money, time, convenience…these are the macro obstacles to women getting care for themselves and their families. The Band-Aid for this problem for some women, in the short run, has been the emergence of the retail health clinic. These clinics, popping up adjacent to retail centers as well as stand-alone facilities, address the issues of convenience and time, and their price-transparency has been welcomed by many health consumers — uninsured, busy moms among them.
However, the retail clinic is no substitute for the Medical Home. The AAFP knows this: the lack of continuity of care in a retail health clinic, combined with its episodic nature and lack of ongoing relationship with the family is no solution for prevention, early diagnosis, and ongoing care for the family. But in the absence of a Medical Home, the consumer may not see other choices very clearly.

A final piece of data in the AAFP survey supports the fact that most women desire a Medical Home. 63% of women want the ability to have a relationship with a doctor who knows medical histories of all family members in order to diagnose and treat the family unit. 63% also highly value one doctor to manage chronic conditions. 62% of women feel it’s important to have a doctor to coordinate care with doctors when necessary. And underpinning all of these wants is the fact that most women see technology as an enabling factor in building the Medical Home: wired with an electronic health record, ePrescribing, electronic scheduling, and e-mailing of results.

Rosie says: “We can do it!”