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  • Larissa Martin

The Medical System Is Broken: Why It Needs To Be More Inclusive


Larissa Martin


Mar 22, 2024

The medical system is supposed to help people find answers and treat their health conditions, but it’s not built to help people. The reality of the medical system is that the people who need care and formal diagnoses the most have to convince their doctors to listen to their symptoms and give them the relief that they need. Some people even die before the system provides them with the care they need, or they pass away from not being able to afford medical services.

The medical system seems great in theory, but it’s not doing as much good as we might think.

My mom’s been struggling with her health for over two years now. She’s seen countless doctors and is only just now starting to receive answers about what could be affecting her health. It turns out that my mom has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a condition that affects her nerves and causes her chronic pain. No one should be in pain for years without knowing what’s wrong, and the process of finding answers can be extremely costly. But my mom’s journey to receiving her CRPS diagnosis was unnecessarily long and difficult, and if the medical system truly took patients’ needs into account, maybe a doctor would’ve diagnosed her sooner. 

Unfortunately, my mom’s far from the only person who can’t access the medical care she needs.

A Harris poll published in TIME revealed that the health care system fails to meet over 70 percent of Americans’ needs. Of those who said that the medical system currently doesn’t meet their needs, 31 percent indicated that appointment wait times prevented them from accessing care, while another 26 percent cited high costs as a barrier to receiving medical treatment.

Moreover, 23 percent of the people who felt disappointed in the medical system stated that subpar insurance coverage was a problem for them, and 19 percent claimed that the medical system doesn’t focus enough on preventative care and wellness. Clearly, the health care system doesn’t serve the people it claims to help, and the fact that over two-thirds of respondents had negative experiences while trying to receive medical care is disturbing. It’s high time that the medical system makes its care more accessible and more patient-friendly.

To make matters worse, the likelihood that a doctor will successfully diagnose and treat you largely depends on how you identify — and medical care should never work that way. Black women are more likely than other groups to die from heart disease, stroke, and lupus. They, along with other marginalized groups, have more challenges in accessing health care: they’re less likely to have health insurance and more likely to face medical debt and longer travel times to hospitals. Additionally, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community may face providers doubting them in medical settings or may have difficulty finding respectful, identity-affirming care. No one should have to hear a doctor write off their symptoms, disbelieve the severity of their pain, or misgender them at a medical appointment.

The problem is that no one’s really trying to fix these issues in the medical system.

Lawmakers have made progress in providing affordable health care options, but we don’t yet have universal health care, so not everyone can access medical treatment. Doctors continue to discriminate against patients who aren’t straight, white, able-bodied men, and they often gaslight patients into believing that they’re trustworthy while invalidating serious symptoms. Wait times for medical care are dangerously long, and patients die trying to find answers, but lawmakers don’t seem to give these issues a second thought.

We need our lawmakers to pass laws that make health care universally accessible and mandate doctors and medical school students to regularly take courses on how to treat people from all backgrounds. We need further research on how health discrimination affects those who experience it in the medical system. And we also need more effective consequences for doctors who discriminate against certain patients. When our lawmakers address these issues, the medical system will be a safer, fairer place for everyone.

Featured Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.


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