Health is multidimensional and influenced by numerous factors, such as individual behaviors, the environment, working conditions, socio-economic status, and access to healthcare services. Adopting a comprehensive and cross-cutting approach to health is essential for better understanding the health issues of a population.
In this regard, it is crucial to consider territorial disparities in terms of both the characteristics of the populations and their health status, in addition to the geographical distribution of health services. For this purpose, a reliable and up-to-date data system providing precise geospatial information is required. This information will help produce the necessary indicators for analyzing disparities in access to care and identifying deficiencies.
Thus, public health authorities would have the ability to determine which areas require the most healthcare services and where resources should be allocated as a priority. This approach would effectively improve healthcare services management, with a focus on territorial planning and combating health inequalities.
Accessibility and utilization of healthcare services
Accessibility to healthcare is the ability of patients to obtain necessary care and medications from healthcare professionals when needed. In reality, access to healthcare remains constrained by various factors such as an insufficient healthcare supply and a shortage of healthcare personnel. Further, medical care costs are high and social coverage is limited. It is also important to note that disadvantaged populations frequently face mobility challenges that impede their access to healthcare.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised a major concern about limited healthcare access, affecting nearly half of the global population. This situation represents a crucial challenge for public health due to its complexity related to several critical aspects. On the one hand, it is essential to identify optimal locations for healthcare services. It is also essential to understand the correlation between current service locations and actual health needs. This analysis helps comprehend geographical disparities that may limit healthcare access, especially for rural and disadvantaged populations. On the other hand, it is crucial to identify the health needs of the population to efficiently allocate healthcare resources and meet population demands. This evaluation helps us recognize the most pressing health issues, and the most vulnerable population groups. In fact, targeted health policies ensure that resources are utilized efficiently while addressing the specific needs of a particular population.
Information management for healthcare access assessment
Assessing healthcare access is essential to understand inequalities in healthcare provision and identify areas where healthcare is most needed. Any study of healthcare services accessibility and utilization must take into account several key factors, such as socio-economic variables, needs, supply, and demand.
A range of tools and methods are used to address healthcare planning issues. They provide management proposals that improve limited accessibility to healthcare service locations.
Health dashboards and health maps are highly useful tools for presenting health data in a simple and understandable manner. They provide general statistics on population health and well-being from different perspectives. They allow tracking the temporal evolution of various health indicators and highlighting disparities based on socio-economic levels, rural and urban environments, and local/regional health networks.
Combining these tools will provide a precise and comprehensive picture of healthcare accessibility in a particular country or region.
Often, a study of the available resources is conducted in order to characterize the service potential, both in terms of human and institutional resources, as well as material resources. An accurate count of healthcare facilities, healthcare equipment, and healthcare providers (general practitioners, specialists, nurses, etc.) can provide insight into healthcare distribution and disparities within it. This can be used to identify areas where healthcare is available and areas where it is scarce or insufficient.
In Tunisia, the national health service map “Carte sanitaire” provides statistics and a graphical representation of healthcare services distribution. This allows a clear visualization of their geographical spread at the level of each governorate.
In order to fully understand healthcare accessibility, we must look beyond healthcare provision evaluations and take into account inequities in access to care. It is therefore necessary to analyze the alignment between healthcare services and the served population, within the context of a healthcare system’s territorial planning policy. This approach facilitates the efficient planning and organization of material and human resources to improve healthcare access for all. This is regardless of geography or socioeconomic status.
However, to implement such analyses, having access to a robust and well-defined data system is crucial, allowing the collection of geolocated data related to socio-economic, environmental, epidemiological, and individual health factors. Statistical analysis must be conducted to identify all factors influencing the population’s healthcare needs. This will highlight the key factors contributing to healthcare access inequalities. It will enable the planning of effective interventions to address population health needs and ensure efficient resource distribution.
Recognizing the importance of data in assessing healthcare access is crucial. Organizations and public health authorities must integrate analytical approaches and rigorous statistical methods when considering strategies for healthcare service distribution. However, these approaches heavily rely on the availability of accurate data on the population, its health status, and environmental risks.
Data dependence poses a major challenge for specialists involved in in-depth surveys and spatial analyses. Therefore, it is essential to develop more comprehensive health information systems that efficiently collect, analyze, and share the necessary data. This will improve evaluation quality and develop more equitable and effective health policies.