Why Patient Success: Accessible Preventive Care

Why Patient Success is a series from Luma staff about their experiences as patients and caregivers navigating the healthcare system. 

Moving to a different country often brings many unexpected changes and new norms. When Hee-Yeon Woo moved to the United States from South Korea about 20 years ago, she noticed immediately the difference in healthcare access, which still exists today. 

“When I scheduled an appointment as a new patient at my local health system, I was shocked by the long waits. Three and a half months to even talk to the doctor!”, Hee-Yeon said. “I had a body rash that lasted more than half a year, so I wanted to see a doctor to find out why. My wait time was so long that it led me to wonder what would happen to those dealing with more severe symptoms?” 

Hee-Yeon witnessed firsthand how access to care affects those managing long-term illness, and the differences in that access in Korea versus the United States. Over a dozen of her loved ones were diagnosed with cancer within the span of 20 years. 

Some of her Korean family and friends were diagnosed early, thanks to comprehensive screenings:

 “In Korea, when you have cancer or another long-term illness, you are assigned an advocate to help you manage your treatment within the automated healthcare system. The system checks in with you on a regular basis and reminds you of the yearly check ups or treatments that you need to receive. Or you can walk into the clinic without an appointment when you need to see a doctor or nurse practitioner, which is fairly common in Korea”, said Hee-Yeon. 

But when Hee-Yeon’s friend in the United States was diagnosed with cancer, no such advocacy program existed for her. “She was going through very painful chemo treatments while taking care of her two little kids and losing her hair, but still had to spend hours on the phone talking to the insurance company or trying to get in touch with doctors for treatment advice. It was so hard to see my friend go through stress while also fighting cancer,” said Hee-Yeon. 

Hee-Yeon believes that simplifying the access and operational parts of a patient’s journey is important to allow them to focus on getting care. “The ultimate goal in healthcare should be that if a patient is sick, they can see their doctor easily and quickly. This also means minimizing the behind-the-scenes workloads that make the process easier for providers and their staff for follow-ups and total patient care.” 

“So many young people are diagnosed with cancer now and our system in the US isn’t set up to catch it early. Providing the tools to help doctors bring patients in for preventive care and check in with them earlier will save lives.”  

In her work at Luma as Technical Operations Manager for the Implementation team, Hee-Yeon seeks to make the healthcare journey easier and more accessible for patients experiencing health challenges. “We’re all patients – those receiving care today could be our loved ones tomorrow. When I see the increased engagement now between patients and healthcare providers, thanks to Luma, I know I’m a valuable part of enhancing the patient journey.”