3 years ago

Determining geographic accessibility of family physician and nurse practitioner services in relation to the distribution of seniors within two Canadian Prairie Provinces

Equitable access and distribution of health care services for rural and remote populations is a substantial challenge for health workforce planners and policy makers. Geospatial examination of access to health care considers both need and supply dimensions together to determine spatial access scores which contribute to a greater understanding of potential inequity in accessibility. This geospatial investigation explores geographic variation in accessibility to primary health care services utilizing combined access scores for family physicians and nurse practitioner services in urban and rural communities in the Canadian Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. An index of access scores was developed using a floating catchment area framework and a census subdivision geographic unit. Information about family physician and nurse practitioner practice locations and spatial population data were obtained from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada respectively. Alberta has a better overall provincial access score than Saskatchewan for family physicians and nurse practitioners combined (11.37 vs. 9.77). The results demonstrate that nurse practitioner services are likely addressing primary care access gaps due to reduced numbers of family physician services in certain geographical areas. Combined access scores reveal inequalities in the distribution of primary health care services relative to the proportion of population aged 65 + across both provinces, particularly in rural and remote communities. This study contributes to health services research by exploration of combined access scores for family physician and nurse practitioner services in relation to the distribution of seniors. These findings provide insight into which areas may be in need of increased primary health care services with a focus on both of these health professional groups. The findings of this research will serve as a foundational model for future expansion of the methods to other health care provider groups and to other population health need indicators provincially and nationally.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0277953617306342

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