Background: Providing palliative care is a growing priority for health service administratorsworldwide as the populations of many nations continue to age rapidly. In many countries, palliativecare services are presently inadequate and this problem will be exacerbated in the coming years.The provision of palliative care, moreover, has been piecemeal in many jurisdictions and there islittle distinction made at present between levels of service provision. There is a pressing need todetermine which populations do not enjoy access to specialized palliative care services in particular.Methods: Catchments around existing specialized palliative care services in the Canadian provinceof British Columbia were calculated based on real road travel time. Census block face populationcounts were linked to postal codes associated with road segments in order to determine thepercentage of the total population more than one hour road travel time from specialized palliativecare.Results: Whilst 81% of the province's population resides within one hour from at least onespecialized palliative care service, spatial access varies greatly by regional health authority. Based onthe definition of specialized palliative care adopted for the study, the Northern Health Authorityhas, for instance, just two such service locations, and well over half of its population do not havereasonable spatial access to such care.Conclusion: Strategic location analysis methods must be developed and used to accurately locatefuture palliative services in order to provide spatial access to the greatest number of people, andto ensure that limited health resources are allocated wisely. Improved spatial access has thepotential to reduce travel-times for patients, for palliative care workers making home visits, and fortravelling practitioners. These methods are particularly useful for health service planners – andprovide a means to rationalize their decision-making. Moreover, they are extendable to a numberof health service allocation problems.
BMC Health Services Research 2008, 8:140 doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-140
BMC Health Services Research
A Method to Determine Spatial Access to Specialized Palliative Care Services Using GIS
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