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Healthcare Access for People Managing Allergies

Healthcare Access for People Managing Allergies

You’re flaring up because of allergies, and it takes at least a month to see an allergist. Meanwhile, you’re stressed, not sleeping, and worried that your voice is not being heard, no matter how urgent your request is. Or what about the cost of auto-injectors? Why are generic options versus brand names always changing? Are you experiencing issues with healthcare access? 

A lack of healthcare access for people managing allergies leads to healthcare disparities and a significant impact on quality of life. At Zestfull, we have been in these situations and know how frustrating it can be. There is actually a term that addresses this issue: access to care.

This post is part of our Knowledge is Power Program in collaboration with Allergy Insider. You will find a free downloadable patient information sheet on healthcare access for people managing allergies. Use this as a tool and share with your Healthcare Provider (HCP) to help guide your discussions in the shared decision making process.

How does a lack of access to healthcare impact allergies?

The first step is acknowledging that additional barriers may exist to get the necessary care for allergies. This is where it is vital for you to be as informed as an allergy patient as possible and advocate for the care you need. We believe that knowledge is power. The more you know, the more empowered you are to take control of your allergy management. 

  • Cultural and language barriers to healthcare: Many communities do not believe that allergies impact them or they do not have proper allergy management care because of a language barrier.
  • Timely Access to Care: Minority communities and those with lower incomes are less likely to receive timely access to care-potentially leading to more severe allergic reactions with a greater risk of anaphylaxis because of a delayed diagnosis. 
  • Financial barriers to healthcare: The cost of medications, allergy testing, and allergy treatments can be a significant financial burden, especially for those with limited insurance coverage or lower incomes.
  • Access to an allergy specialist  A lack of allergists in many geographical areas, along with rising healthcare costs makes being seen by a specialist quickly or at all practically impossible. 
  • Digital health literacy: Technology makes healthcare more accessible, but what if you do not have access to a smartphone or have proper internet reception?
  • Reduce the allergic disease stigma that allergies only affect a certain population. 
  • Seek out a clinician you can identify with and who understands your life’s cultural nuances. 
  • Look for clinicians who speak your mother tongue.  

It would be wonderful if there were more food allergy resources in different languages to aid medical professionals to help their patients manage their food allergies or for outreach at community events.” 

My husband and I are both from immigrant families and able to converse casually with our parents and relatives in our respective Chinese dialects. However, we don’t have the vocabulary to explain what is “anaphylaxis,” “epinephrine,” or “allergen cross-contact” effectively and resort to simple descriptions and, at times, a little bit of miming.

-Sharon Wong, M.Ed, Nut Free Wok
  • Be proactive in seeking care: For example, if you suspect a food allergy don’t delay seeking medical attention. It may seem like a lot of effort, but a delayed diagnosis can potentially lead to more severe reactions and a greater risk of anaphylaxis.
  • Advocate to be seen by an allergy specialist: Don’t stop asking! If you aren’t being heard, hold your head up high and keep on asking. We have been there and know that this can become a full-time job. If need be, get someone to help you call/seek the right HCP or allergy specialist, if accessible to you.

Be flexible: Seek out different office locations within your healthcare network- you may have to travel farther, but if you have the resources, it may be worth it to be seen quicker.

-Shahla, Zestfull Co-founder

PRO TIP: Continue to call and see if there are any immediate available spots or get on wait lists. (Be nice; do not underestimate the power of being nice). Be concise in why you are calling and what you need. Try writing out what you will say beforehand.

  • Be realistic and communicate your needs. Your medication and allergy management plan has to align with your lifestyle and budget. Do not be afraid to talk about it with your doctor.

We switched pharmacies a few years ago, and I’m glad we did. We’re now at a local independent pharmacy where the pharmacist is accessible and recognizes you. They can answer questions, get back to you with alternatives and, best of all, they deliver!

-Janine, The Allergy Aspect

PRO TIP: Work with your pharmacist to find the most affordable option covered by your insurance plan. Some allergy medicines have co-plans, or you can only get the generic version. Ask your healthcare provider and/or call your insurance first.

Any Health Care Professional (HCP), such as a Primary Care Physician who orders laboratory testing, can order specific IgE testing. Depending on your test results and allergy history, your healthcare provider may refer you to an allergy specialist or immunologist to help personalize your allergy management plan. 

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Confidence with food allergies

PRO TIP: Complete Allergy Insider’s Allergy Symptom Questionnaire before your appointment and take it with you to help facilitate a conversation with your HCP.  

Apps! Emails! Telehealth! If you cannot get to an allergist or immunologist physically, access telehealth or digital healthcare.

  • Use the online patient portal to review medical records and allergy test results and make appointments.
  • Depending on your office, messages via the patient portal are sent to doctors quicker than a voicemail so check with the office to see what protocol works best for them. 
  • Find telehealth mental health options; a therapist who specializes in online food allergy counseling
  • The American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology(ACAAI) has a directory of nationwide directory of allergists who offer Telehealth services.

The AI chatbot on my doctor’s website is so quick! I just turn to it when I need a new appointment, and it returns within hours. I no longer need to call the office multiple times. What a time saver!

-Kortney, Zestfull Co-Founder

Unfortunately, access to care is not a unique problem for many patients. Knowing this, you can take proactive steps to advocate for yourself or a loved one when navigating an allergy diagnosis and allergy management plan. You are not alone on this food allergy journey. Seeking the advice of others who have been on the same track can help you get the care you deserve. That’s why we’ve created this downloadable information sheet for you to feel empowered and take to your next appointment.

This article is part of the #KnowledgeisPower program, sponsored by Allergy Insider. Our downloadable patient information sheets are not intended as direct medical advice but as a starting point for discussion with your doctor.

The tips and stories in this program are personal experiences from patients shared with their permission. Gary Falcetano, PA-C, AE-C Scientific Affairs Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, has medically reviewed and approved all resources.


The Zestfull Corp. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

© 2021 Zestfull. All rights reserved.

 
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