The Multiple Location Time Weighted Index: Using Patient Activity Spaces to Calculate Primary Care Service Areas

Author: Jennifer Rankin, BA, MHA, MS (2008)

Primary Advisor: Kim Dunn, MD, PhD

Committee Members: Charles E Begley, PhD; Hongbin Wang, PhD; Keith Burau, PhD; Charlotte C Cunliffe, MBA, MPH, PhD

PhD Thesis, The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

 
Geographic health planning analyses, such as service area calculations, are hampered by a lack of patient-specific geographic data. Using the limited patient address information in patient management systems, planners analyze patient origin based on home address. But activity space research done sparingly in public health and extensively in non-health related arenas uses multiple addresses per person when analyzing accessibility. Also, health care access research has shown that there are many non-geographic factors that influence choice of provider. Most planning methods, however, overlook non-geographic factors influencing choice of provider, and the limited data mean the analyses can only be related to home address. This research attempted to determine to what extent geography plays a part in patient choice of provider and to determine if activity space data can be used to calculate service areas for primary care providers. During Spring 2008, a convenience sample of 384 patients of a locally-funded Community Health Center in Houston, Texas, completed a survey that asked about what factors are important when he or she selects a health care provider. A subset of this group (336) also completed an activity space log that captured location and time data on the places where the patient regularly goes. Survey results indicate that for this patient population, geography plays a role in their choice of health care provider, but it is not the most important reason for choosing a provider. Other factors for choosing a health care provider such as the provider offering “free or low cost visits”, meeting “all of the patient’s health care needs”, and seeing “the patient quickly” were all ranked higher than geographic reasons. Analysis of the patient activity locations shows that activity spaces can be used to create service areas for a single primary care provider. Weighted activity-space-based service areas have the potential to include more patients in the service area since more than one location per patient is used. Further analysis of the logs shows that a reduced set of locations by time and type could be used for this methodology, facilitating ongoing data collection for activity-space-based planning efforts.