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Quantifying spatial accessibility of general practitioners by applying a modified huff three-step floating catchment area (MH3SFCA) method

  • Subal, Julia1
  • Paal, Piret2
  • Krisp, Jukka M.1
  • 1 University of Augsburg, Institute of Geography,
  • 2 WHO Collaborating Centre, Institute for Nursing Science and Practice, Paracelsus Medical University,
Published Article
International Journal of Health Geographics
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Feb 17, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12942-021-00263-3
PMID: 33596931
PMCID: PMC7888693
PubMed Central
  • Methodology


Background It is necessary to ensure sufficient healthcare. The use of current, precise and realistic methods to model spatial accessibility to healthcare and thus improved decision-making is helping this process. Generally, these methods—which include the family of floating catchment area (FCA) methods—incorporate a number of criteria that address topics like access, efficiency, budget, equity and the overall system utilization. How can we measure spatial accessibility? This paper investigates a sophisticated approach for quantifying the spatial accessibility of general practitioners. (GPs). Our objective is the investigation and application of a spatial accessibility index by an improved Huff three-step floating catchment area (MH3SFCA) method. Methods We modify and implement the huff model three-step floating catchment area (MH3SFCA) method and exemplary calculation of the spatial accessibility indices for the test study area. The method is extended to incorporate a more realistic way to model the distance decay effect. To that end, instead of a binary approach, a continuous approach is employed. Therefore, each distance between a healthcare site and the population is incorporated individually. The study area includes Swabia and the city of Augsburg, Germany. The data for analysis is obtained from following data sources: (1) Acxiom Deutschland GmbH (2020) provided a test dataset for the locations of general practitioners (GPs); (2) OpenStreetMap (OSM) data is utilized for road networks; and (3) the Statistische Ämter des Bundes und der Länder (German official census 2011) provided a population distribution dataset stemming from the 2011 Census. Results The spatial accessibility indices are distributed in an inhomogeneous as well as polycentric pattern for the general practitioners (GPs). Differences in spatial accessibility are found mainly between urban and rural areas. The transitions from lower to higher values of accessibility or vice versa in general are smooth rather than abrupt. The results indicate that the MH3SFCA method is suited for comparing the spatial accessibility of GPs in different regions. The results of the MH3SFCA method can be used to indicate over- and undersupplied areas. However, the absolute values of the indices do not inherently define accessibility to be too low or too high. Instead, the indices compare the spatial relationships between each supply and demand location. As a result, the higher the value of the accessibility indices, the higher the opportunities for the respective population locations. The result for the study area are exemplary as the test input data has a high uncertainty. Depending on the objective, it might be necessary to further analyze the results of the method. Conclusions The application of the MH3SFCA method on small-scale data can provide an overview of accessibility for the whole study area. As many factors have to be taken into account, the outcomes are too complex for a direct and clear interpretation of why indices are low or high. The MH3SFCA method can be used to detect differences in accessibility on a small scale. In order to effectively detect over- or undersupply, further analysis must be conducted and/or different (legal) constraints must be applied. The methodology requires input data of high quality.

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