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Eval Health Prof. 1994 Mar;17(1):60-76.

Access to health care. A conceptual framework and its relevance to health care planning.

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GeoEnvironmental Systems.


Despite some serious past efforts to clarify its multiple dimensions and meanings, access to health care has remained a rather elusive concept, hampering the work of health care policymakers and professionals as they endeavor to effect meaningful health care reform. This article provides perhaps the most detailed clarification of the access concept, especially the crucial linkages among the various access dimensions, and presents a comprehensive conceptual framework for evaluation and planning activities as they relate to people's access to health care services. The proposed conceptual model recognizes access as the outcome of a process involving the interplay between the characteristics of the health care service system and of potential users in a specified area, and moderated by health care related public policy and planning efforts. An elaborate typology of access, incorporating four pairs of access dimensions, is also derived. This atomization of the concept allows us to focus on specific aspects of the access to health care problem, and to develop precise outcome indicators of health system performance for evaluative purposes. Further, it enables the access concept and its pertinent dimensions to be put into proper perspective when assessing the health care access situation in a specific national or regional context. The relevance of the proposed access model and the typology to health care planning in general, and to spatial planning of health care service systems in particular, is also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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