Could Turning To Health Care Be A Booster Shot For The Postal Service?

A Texas doctor outlines why the USPS is uniquely equipped to provide a new kind of service.

By Joy DiazAugust 17, 2020 11:52 am, ,

There has been a lot of news involving the U.S. Postal Service of late. But what if the U.S. Postal Service could be reimagined to become part of the health care system? And what if, in the process, USPS received a booster shot of income?

Dr. Michael Pignone wrote about this in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. He’s an internal medicine doctor, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and interim chair of the Population Health Department at UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School.

“Part of the idea came from seeing what we’ve observed during the COVID epidemic. For all the terrible things that have happened with COVID, one bright spot has been that we’ve broken down some of the barriers to delivering care outside of the doctor’s office. And when you think about how best to deliver care, going to the patient rather than making the patient come to us, is a really appealing concept,” Pignone said.

Dr. Pignone said he’s already been involved in a project using the U.S. Postal Service to distribute colorectal cancer screening tests.

“Someone might ask, well, couldn’t FedEx or UPS do the same thing? And for some things, maybe they could,” Pignone said. “But the low cost and highly distributed aspect to the Postal Service, the fact that it serves even our most rural residents in a state like Texas is really appealing.”

Dr. Pignone said this could be taken even further by getting the postal worker themselves involved in delivering health care.

“Their widely distributed network and their local knowledge of communities could be repurposed, for instance, to – could postal workers be delivering our flu vaccine, or perhaps the new COVID vaccine when we want to disseminate it quickly?” Pignone said.

He said governments around the world have already reimagined the roles of postal workers. In France, he said postal workers check on isolated elderly people living alone.

“That is a kind of more radical reimagining of the Postal Service, but one that might really provide a future funding stream that would preserve its existence and its allow it to thrive,” Pignone said.

Web story by Laura Rice.

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