Coordinating medical care is too hard for the average person and can often require many hours on the phone. For people who are not well and don't have the energy to persist, dealing with the bureaucracy can be a deterrent from getting any care at all.
It doesn't need to be this way. With more community liaisons available to help people through the system, it would be easier for them to get care. Suicides among veterans don't take place because the Veteran's Administration is underfunded. The problem is a lack of transitionary help. While the VA does offer case managers, there isn't an actual person in the veterans' community to help them through the system from the predeployment phase and beyond. Many veterans fall through the cracks of the system, with tragic consequences.
We need community liaisons for many other populations, too. People who are disabled, live with mental illness or don't speak English fluently often lack the care they need because they can't navigate the system.
Hospitals and insurance companies aren't likely to provide this help. Many face almost no competition in the locales where they operate and have little impetus to improve the patient experience. As a result, patients who can't navigate an overly complex system eventually find a simpler route on their own: They go to the emergency room. That drives up the cost of health care for everyone.
Entrepreneurial opportunity: It's time for health-care innovators outside of the system to offer fresh solutions and services for staying in touch with those who aren't getting the care they need. The opportunity is ripe for entrepreneurial companies to provide community liaisons.
Ultimately, fixing the health-care system starts with asking ourselves a basic question: What is the experience of getting health care like for the consumer? For many, it's daunting — but we can change that. The timing is right for entrepreneurs to step up and innovate. No American should feel like quality health care is as elusive as a seat in first class. It's time to close the empathy gap and get people the services they need.
— By Uzochukwu Chima, co-founder of Kaigo Health and former managing director of the Institute for Policy Development. Follow him on Twitter at @kaigohealth.