An evaluation of access to health care services along the rural-urban continuum in Canada

Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4N3M5, Canada.
BMC Health Services Research (Impact Factor: 1.71). 01/2011; 11(1):20. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6963-11-20
Source: PubMed


Studies comparing the access to health care of rural and urban populations have been contradictory and inconclusive. These studies are complicated by the influence of other factor which have been shown to be related to access and utilization. This study assesses the equity of access to health care services across the rural-urban continuum in Canada before and after taking other determinants of access into account.
This is a cross-sectional study of the population of the 10 provinces of Canada using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS 2.1). Five different measures of access and utilization are compared across the continuum of rural-urban. Known determinants of utilization are taken into account according to Andersen's Health Behaviour Model (HBM); location of residence at the levels of province, health region, and community is also controlled for.
This study found that residents of small cities not adjacent to major centres, had the highest reported utilisation rates of influenza vaccines and family physician services, were most likely to have a regular medical doctor, and were most likely to report unmet need. Among the rural categories there was a gradient with the most rural being least likely to have had a flu shot, use specialist physicians services, or have a regular medical doctor. Residents of the most urban centres were more likely to report using specialist physician services. Many of these differences are diminished or eliminated once other factors are accounted for. After adjusting for other factors those living in the most urban areas were more likely to have seen a specialist physician. Those in rural communities had a lower odds of receiving a flu shot and having a regular medical doctor. People residing in the most urban and most rural communities were less likely to have a regular medical doctor. Those in any of the rural categories were less likely to report unmet need.
Inequities in access to care along the rural-urban continuum exist and can be masked when evaluation is done at a very large scale with gross indicators of rural-urban. Understanding the relationship between rural-urban and other determinants will help policy makers to target interventions appropriately: to specific demographic, provincial, community, or rural categories.

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    • "Although school-based immunization coverage data among 17-year old students within the province reveals high vaccine coverage (96.6%) [6], the general population may not be representative of high risk populations such as pregnant adolescents, and immunization status was not available for analysis in this study. Increased susceptibility in northern regions of Ontario could reflect barriers to immunization due to geographic isolation and sub-optimal access to primary health care services particularly among First Nations communities [22-24]. Health units in the northern region are more rural and tend to be more sparsely populated compared to the southern and central regions of the province. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Countries of the Americas have been working towards rubella elimination since 2003 and endemic rubella virus transmission appears to have been interrupted since 2009. To contribute towards monitoring of rubella elimination, we assessed rubella seroprevalence among prenatal screening tests performed in Ontario. Methods: Specimens received for prenatal rubella serologic testing at the Public Health Ontario Laboratory, the provincial reference laboratory, between 2006 and 2010 were analyzed. A patient-based dataset was created using all tests occurring among 15-49 year-old females, where prenatal screening was indicated. Multiple tests were assigned to the same patient on the basis of health card number, name and date of birth. Only unique tests performed at least nine months apart were included. SAS version 9.2 was used for analysis. Results: Between 2006 and 2010, we identified 459,963 women who underwent 551,160 unique prenatal screening tests for rubella. Of these, 81.6%, 17.1% and 1.4% had one, two and three or more tests respectively. Conclusion: Rubella susceptibility among prenatal women in Ontario supports elimination goals as population immunity in this group is relatively high. Higher susceptibility among young women and women living in the north highlights an opportunity for greater focus on identification and immunization of susceptible women in these groups.
    BMC Infectious Diseases 08/2013; 13(1):362. DOI:10.1186/1471-2334-13-362 · 2.61 Impact Factor
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    • "And while some might argue that socioemotional communication takes up too much time, the results of this study suggest otherwise. While uncertainties remain about the role of physician communication style and patient outcomes [25,26], by better understanding the different types of doctor-patient communications and how they vary across urban and rural settings, it may provide an important piece to the complex puzzle of explaining urban–rural variations in health care and health outcomes. "
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    ABSTRACT: Location of practice, such as working in a rural or urban clinic, may influence how physicians communicate with their patients. This exploratory pilot study examines the communication styles used during doctor-patient interactions in urban and rural family practice settings in Western Canada. We analyzed observation and interview data from four physicians practicing in these different locations. Using a grounded theory approach, communications were categorized as either instrumental or socioemotional. Instrumental communication refers to "cure-oriented interactions" and tends to be more task-oriented focusing on the patient's health concerns and reason for the appointment. In contrast, socioemotional communication refers to more "care-oriented interactions" that may make the patient feel comfortable, relieve patient anxiety and build a trusting relationship. The physicians in small, rural towns appear to know their patients and their families on a more personal level and outside of their office, and engage in more socioemotional communications compared to those practicing in suburban clinics in a large urban centre. Knowing patients outside the clinic seems to change the nature of the doctor-patient interaction, and, in turn, the doctor-patient relationship itself. Interactions between urban doctors and their patients had a mixture of instrumental and socioemotional communications, while interactions between rural doctors and their patients tended to be highly interpersonal, often involving considerable socioemotional communication and relationship-building. Despite the different ways that doctors and patients communicate with each other in the two settings, rural and urban doctors spend approximately the same amount of time with their patients. Thus, greater use of socioemotional communication by rural doctors, which may ease patient anxiety and increase patient trust, did not appear to add extra time to the patient visit. Research suggests that socioemotional communication may ultimately lead to better patient outcomes, which implies that health differences between rural and urban settings could be linked to differences in doctor-patient communication styles.
    BMC Health Services Research 07/2013; 13(1):261. DOI:10.1186/1472-6963-13-261 · 1.71 Impact Factor
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    • "Intraclass correlation estimates for state and county random effects suggest that up to 5% of the variation in VA health service use is affected by local area resources. These estimates are at the upper range of values found in previous studies examining the correlation in utilization measures within geographical units [36-38]. State random effect estimates also suggest that variation in health policies across states, including Medicaid, is an important determinant of whether veterans use VA care. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background In the U.S., economic conditions are intertwined with labor market decisions, access to health care, health care utilization and health outcomes. The Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system has served as a safety net provider by supplying free or reduced cost care to qualifying veterans. This study examines whether local area labor market conditions, measured using county-level unemployment rates, influence whether veterans obtain health care from the VA. Methods We used survey data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in years 2000, 2003 and 2004 to construct a random sample of 73,964 respondents self-identified as veterans. VA health service utilization was defined as whether veterans received all, some or no care from the VA. Hierarchical ordered logistic regression was used to address unobserved state and county random effects while adjusting for individual characteristics. Local area labor market conditions were defined as the average 12-month unemployment rate in veterans’ county of residence. Results The mean unemployment rate for veterans receiving all, some and no care was 5.56%, 5.37% and 5.24%, respectively. After covariate adjustment, a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate in a veteran’s county of residence was associated with an increase in the probability of receiving all care (0.34%, p-value = 0.056) or some care (0.29%, p-value = 0.023) from the VA. Conclusions Our findings suggest that the important role of the VA in providing health care services to veterans is magnified in locations with high unemployment.
    BMC Health Services Research 03/2013; 13(1):96. DOI:10.1186/1472-6963-13-96 · 1.71 Impact Factor
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