By Kate Hunger
Health insurance can be complicated and intimidating, says Ana Diaz, a Physician Assistant Studies student set to graduate in December.
That’s why Diaz, along with eight other Physician Assistant Studies students, have participated in an interdisciplinary community service-learning project aimed at increasing community health literacy. The student group, which includes medical and pharmacy students, gave an oral presentation on their experimental survey study, “Increasing Health Insurance Literacy through a Multimedia Platform,” at the 2019 International Conference on Communication in Healthcare in October.
Students involved in the project are members of Access Care Texas (ACT), a community service learning project of UT Health San Antonio’s Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics.
Led by the Physician Assistant Studies students, the group partnered with University Health System to validate the effectiveness of a free bilingual app, SA Access, on users’ health insurance literacy, said Diaz, an ACT officer and one of the project’s leaders.
SA Access was developed in 2013 in partnership with the Bexar County Health Collaborative.
“Our vision was we could prove the app was effective by going into the community and partnering with a clinic,” Diaz said, explaining that students started working on the project in 2017 and began collecting data in 2018.
The study enrolled 678 patients at the UHS Robert B. Green clinics. Of that number, 206 participants completed follow-up phone surveys. The study’s results show that participants exposed to the app by students at the clinics experienced an increase in health insurance literacy, and participants who went on to use the app experienced an even bigger increase in their understanding of health insurance.
“We all believe in the app,” Diaz said. “We believe that health literacy is very important. Health literacy as providers is our responsibility. If our patients don’t understand us, they don’t trust us.”
A manuscript is in progress to publish the group’s findings, Diaz said, and the group will present their findings this spring at the Texas Public Health Association annual education conference in Dallas.