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Access to Care Measurement Strategies

According to the CDC, access to care includes four characteristics:

  1. Coverage – Not having health insurance makes it difficult for people to get the care they need
  2. Services – The availability of a regular source of care, clinical preventive services, and emergency services are important for a healthy community
  3. Timeliness – Delays in receiving services can constitute an important barrier in access to care  
  4. Workforce – Lack of available primary care providers, dentists or mental health providers can lead to less care or poorly coordinated care

Many measurement strategies have been used to analyze access to health care. These include the:

  • percentage of the population with and without health insurance,[1,2]
  • percentage of employers offering health insurance to employees,[2]
  • percentage of the population who were unable to get or delayed in getting needed medical care, dental care, or prescription medicines. [1,2,4]
  • number of patients served by a federally qualified health center (FQHC),[2]
  • percentage of the population using emergency rooms as the usual source of care, and
  • availability of primary care providers in a community [3]
  • percentage of the population with specific source of ongoing care, [3,4]


[1] Berk ML, Schur CL. Measuring access to care: Improving information for policymakers. Health Aff. 1998;17:180-186.
[2] Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. SHADAC state health access profile. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Web Site.
[3]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020. Access to Health Services . Last updated March 2015. Accessed March 18, 2015.
[4] Kottke T, Isham G. Measuring Health Care Access and Quality to Improve Health in Populations. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy. 2010; 7(4): 1-8.