Access to Health Services
One way to measure the effectiveness of a state or community’s health care delivery system is by determining the accessibility of preventive and ongoing care. When evaluating the access to care, it is important to consider one or more of the following factors:
Availability: The number of health care providers, facilities, and hospital beds are adequate for the representative population.
Affordability: The individuals’ ability to pay for care (often measured by the number of people who are uninsured or underinsured).
Appropriateness: The health care system is successful in addressing individual needs given the differences in culture, language, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics.
Adequate access to care helps increase appropriate use of the health care system, by affecting the timing, type, and amount of services that are used. For example, rates of vaccinations and mammograms reflect individuals’ ability to get to, and pay for, preventive services that are acceptable to them. The accessibility of health services is particularly important because it is a major contributing factor to health outcomes. Improved access to care leads to improved community health by reducing health disparities and increasing the quality and years of healthy life.