What barbershops can teach hospitals about healthcare delivery

Hospitals and providers can learn a thing or two about healthcare delivery from unlikely community sources, Aaron E. Carroll, MD, associate dean for research mentoring at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and a New York Times contributor, writes in a recent op-ed. The first place healthcare officials should look for guidance? Barbershops.

In his op-ed, Dr. Carroll cites a study published April 8 in The New England Journal of Medicine that aimed to examine how patients would respond to pharmacist-led interventions that were encouraged and led by barbers in their facilities, removing physicians from the process. Researchers found patients who took part in the intervention, which focused on hypertension in men, saw their systolic blood pressure drop to a level much closer to "normal" blood pressure levels, and noted the rate of cohort retention was 95 percent, according to Dr. Carroll.

He notes the barbershop customers represented a segment of the population that is traditionally hard to reach for medical professionals. However, patients who participated saw an improvement in their blood pressure more than three times the average of previous pharmacist-based interventions, which typically examined easier-to-reach populations.

"The larger implications of this study shouldn't be ignored. Getting barbers involved meant health messages came from trusted members of the community. Locating the intervention in barbershops meant patients could receive care without inconvenience, with peer support. Using pharmacists meant that care could be delivered more efficiently," Dr. Carroll wrote.

"If we really want to improve health on a large scale, especially with populations distrustful of the healthcare system, it seems we need to go to where they are; to use people they trust to deliver messages; and to allow care to occur without much of the infrastructure usually demanded for billing," he added.

To access Dr. Carroll's op-ed for The New York Times, click here.

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