Georgians for a Healthy Future supports measures to expand access to essential health care services. In addition to health insurance, features of the health care delivery system such as the number and geographic distribution of primary care providers, care coordination and medical homes, and the availability of trauma and acute care services impact the utilization of necessary medical services.
How is Access to Health Care Measured?
Access to health care can be measured through a range of indicators. Structural indicators, such as the number of providers in a given area, supply information about the potential for a given population to access health care services. Realized access indicators, such as the percentage of Georgians who receive recommended cancer screenings, signify whether essential health care services are being obtained. Indicators that supply more detailed information about interaction with the health care system, such as avoidable hospitalizations, can demonstrate an unmet need or a lack of access.
Access to Health Care in Georgia
Georgia ranks 9th in population in the United States, but 39th in physician supply(1), and approximately 15 percent of our state’s population—more than 1.4 million Georgians—lives in a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area(2). More than 20 percent of adults in Georgia do not have a usual source of care(3), and more than 40 percent of children do not have a medical home.(4) Georgia also faces a crisis in trauma care: with only 15 dedicated trauma centers, millions of Georgians are at least two hours away from trauma care services.(5)
On some realized access measures, Georgia is above the national average. For example, 73 percent of children had both a medical and dental preventive care visit in 2007, which ranks 20th in the nation.(6) Eighty-three percent of women age 50 and over in Georgia have had a mammogram, which is above the national median, and Georgia is right at the national median with respect to colorectal cancer screening (62 percent of the state’s population age 50 and over has had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy).(7) However, there is still significant room for improvement on these and other indicators where Georgia fares more poorly: for example, Georgia ranks 48th in the percent of children who received needed mental health care in 2007 (with only 51 percent receiving these services).(8)
Avoidable hospitalizations provide an indicator of unmet need: if a medical condition is being managed appropriately, emergency visits associated with that condition should occur only rarely. Within Georgia, 11 counties have exceptionally high rates of avoidable hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions, and uninsured Georgians are more likely than insured Georgians to experience avoidable hospitalizations for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.(9)
1 Georgia Board for Physician Workforce
2 Kaiser State Health Facts and Office of Shortage Designation, Bureau of Health Professions, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
3 The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard 2009
4 The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard 2009
5 Georgia Statewide Trauma Action Team
6 The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard 2009
7 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, CDC
8 The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard 2009
9 Minyard, Karen, “Avoidable Hospitalizations in Georgia: An Analysis of the Potential for Strategic Action,” Georgia Health Policy Center, January 2005.