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Community First survey aims to identify isle’s health care needs

Big Island residents and medical providers are urged to give feedback about their health care experiences in order to improve medical accessibility on the island.

Community First, a nonprofit founded by the late Barry Taniguchi of KTA Super Stores, last week launched Access to Care, a comprehensive assessment of health care on the island, with the intent of guiding state funds during the 2022 legislative session.

Included as part of Access to Care is an anonymous survey for both health care providers and users to provide input about what aspects of health care on the island need improvement, and what aspects work well and should be expanded.

“It’s one thing to say we have a 100% shortage of neonatal neurologists on the island, but it’s another to know how many people are seeking that kind of care,” said Lisa Rantz, president of the Hawaii State Rural Health Association and executive director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation.

By receiving feedback from residents, Rantz said Community First and health care providers can triangulate which services people need that they aren’t getting and where the island’s health care deserts are located. Rantz added that health care availability on the island is comparable to that of rural Ohio, even as the cost of living is close to that of San Francisco.

Meanwhile, health care providers can take the survey and provide feedback about how the state can better assist them.

For example, Rantz said small providers bear the burden of General Excise Tax fees compared to large hospitals, and suggested that, depending on the results of the survey, the Legislature could pursue measures that would make health care providers exempt from the GET within regions designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has designated the entire Island of Hawaii as a Health Professional Shortage Area.

Community First Executive Director Randy Kurohara said the survey also will collect users’ perspectives on health care practices such as telehealth.

Kurohara said the group hopes to receive at least 5,000 survey results in order to complete a report by the end of the year. Community First will solicit further community feedback with planned focus groups in the future.

The survey will be available online, but Rantz said paper copies will also be available at pop-up events at participating grocery stores and farmers markets throughout November and can be submitted via conventional mail.

Kurohara said the Access to Care project was funded though the state Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The project is separate from a $3 million U.S. Department of Health grant which was awarded in October for the Kuleana Health Project, a two-year initiative focused on increasing medical literacy across the island.

The Access to Care survey can be found online at
accesstocarehawaii.org.

Those who have completed the survey can be entered into a weekly raffle for a $250 KTA Super Stores gift card.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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