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      Patient-centred access to health care: conceptualising access at the interface of health systems and populations

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          Abstract

          Background

          Access is central to the performance of health care systems around the world. However, access to health care remains a complex notion as exemplified in the variety of interpretations of the concept across authors. The aim of this paper is to suggest a conceptualisation of access to health care describing broad dimensions and determinants that integrate demand and supply-side-factors and enabling the operationalisation of access to health care all along the process of obtaining care and benefiting from the services.

          Methods

          A synthesis of the published literature on the conceptualisation of access has been performed. The most cited frameworks served as a basis to develop a revised conceptual framework.

          Results

          Here, we view access as the opportunity to identify healthcare needs, to seek healthcare services, to reach, to obtain or use health care services, and to actually have a need for services fulfilled. We conceptualise five dimensions of accessibility: 1) Approachability; 2) Acceptability; 3) Availability and accommodation; 4) Affordability; 5) Appropriateness. In this framework, five corresponding abilities of populations interact with the dimensions of accessibility to generate access. Five corollary dimensions of abilities include: 1) Ability to perceive; 2) Ability to seek; 3) Ability to reach; 4) Ability to pay; and 5) Ability to engage.

          Conclusions

          This paper explains the comprehensiveness and dynamic nature of this conceptualisation of access to care and identifies relevant determinants that can have an impact on access from a multilevel perspective where factors related to health systems, institutions, organisations and providers are considered with factors at the individual, household, community, and population levels.

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          Most cited references23

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          The concepts and principles of equity and health.

          In 1984, the 32 member states of the World Health Organization European Region took a remarkable step forward in agreeing unanimously on 38 targets for a common health policy for the Region. Not only was equity the subject of the first of these targets, but it was also seen as a fundamental theme running right through the policy as a whole. However, equity can mean different things to different people. This article looks at the concepts and principles of equity as understood in the context of the World Health Organization's Health for All policy. After considering the possible causes of the differences in health observed in populations--some of them inevitable and some unnecessary and unfair--the author discusses equity in relation to health care, concentrating on issues of access to care, utilization, and quality. Lastly, seven principles for action are outlined, stemming from these concepts, to be borne in mind when designing or implementing policies, so that greater equity in health and health care can be promoted.
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            What does 'access to health care' mean?

            Facilitating access is concerned with helping people to command appropriate health care resources in order to preserve or improve their health. Access is a complex concept and at least four aspects require evaluation. If services are available and there is an adequate supply of services, then the opportunity to obtain health care exists, and a population may 'have access' to services. The extent to which a population 'gains access' also depends on financial, organisational and social or cultural barriers that limit the utilisation of services. Thus access measured in terms of utilisation is dependent on the affordability, physical accessibility and acceptability of services and not merely adequacy of supply. Services available must be relevant and effective if the population is to 'gain access to satisfactory health outcomes'. The availability of services, and barriers to access, have to be considered in the context of the differing perspectives, health needs and material and cultural settings of diverse groups in society. Equity of access may be measured in terms of the availability, utilisation or outcomes of services. Both horizontal and vertical dimensions of equity require consideration. Copyright The Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd 2002.
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              Equity of access to health care services: theory and evidence from the UK.

              The pursuit of equity of access to health care is a central objective of many health care systems. This paper first sets out a general theoretical framework within which equity of access can be examined. It then applies the framework by examining the extent to which research evidence has been able to detect systematic inequities of access in UK, where equity of access has been a central focus in the National Health Service since its inception in 1948. Inequity between socio-economic groups is used as an illustrative example, and the extent of inequity of access experienced is explored in each of five service areas: general practitioner consultations; acute hospital care; mental health services; preventative medicine and health promotion; and long-term health care. The paper concludes that there appear to be important inequities in access to some types of health care in the UK, but that the evidence is often methodologically inadequate, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. In particular, it is difficult to establish the causes of inequities which in turn limits the scope for recommending appropriate policy to reduce inequities of access. The theoretical framework and the lessons learned from the UK are of direct relevance to researchers from other countries seeking to examine equity of access in a wide variety of institutional settings.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Equity Health
                Int J Equity Health
                International Journal for Equity in Health
                BioMed Central
                1475-9276
                2013
                11 March 2013
                : 12
                : 18
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 190 Crémazie Est, Montréal, QC H2P1E2, Canada
                [2 ]University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
                [3 ]Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia
                Article
                1475-9276-12-18
                10.1186/1475-9276-12-18
                3610159
                23496984
                f289f3b8-2c29-4d77-b700-8bc129e01380
                Copyright ©2013 Levesque et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 5 November 2012
                : 7 March 2013
                Categories
                Research

                Health & Social care
                accessibility,access to healthcare,availability,utilisation of health services

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