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Evaluating Michigan's community hospital access: spatial methods for decision support

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Author(s): Messina Joseph | Shortridge Ashton | Groop Richard | Varnakovida Pariwate | Finn Mark

Journal: International Journal of Health Geographics
ISSN 1476-072X

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 42;
Date: 2006;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Community hospital placement is dictated by a diverse set of geographical factors and historical contingency. In the summer of 2004, a multi-organizational committee headed by the State of Michigan's Department of Community Health approached the authors of this paper with questions about how spatial analyses might be employed to develop a revised community hospital approval procedure. Three objectives were set. First, the committee needed visualizations of both the spatial pattern of Michigan's population and its 139 community hospitals. Second, the committee required a clear, defensible assessment methodology to quantify access to existing hospitals statewide, taking into account factors such as distance to nearest hospital and road network density to estimate travel time. Third, the committee wanted to contrast the spatial distribution of existing community hospitals with a theoretical configuration that best met statewide demand. This paper presents our efforts to first describe the distribution of Michigan's current community hospital pattern and its people, and second, develop two models, access-based and demand-based, to identify areas with inadequate access to existing hospitals. Results Using the product from the access-based model and contiguity and population criteria, two areas were identified as being "under-served." The lower area, located north/northeast of Detroit, contained the greater total land area and population of the two areas. The upper area was centered north of Grand Rapids. A demand-based model was applied to evaluate the existing facility arrangement by allocating daily bed demand in each ZIP code to the closest facility. We found 1,887 beds per day were demanded by ZIP centroids more than 16.1 kilometers from the nearest existing hospital. This represented 12.7% of the average statewide daily bed demand. If a 32.3 kilometer radius was employed, unmet demand dropped to 160 beds per day (1.1%). Conclusion Both modeling approaches enable policymakers to identify under-served areas. Ultimately this paper is concerned with the intersection of spatial analysis and policymaking. Using the best scientific practice to identify locations of under-served populations based on many factors provides policymakers with a powerful tool for making good decisions.
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