Access to Oncology Care

Oftentimes, health services research measure access as the distance between a patient and the nearest provider of a given type (e.g., hospital, physician).  This issue of access is particularly relevant for individuals with cancer, since cancer care typically requires supervisions from specialist oncologists.  In most cases, health services researchers assume that individuals located far from oncologists have poor access to care.

According to an article by Tracy, Nam and Gruca (2013), this may not in fact be the case due to visiting consultant clinics.

[M]any rural hospitals host regular visiting consultant clinics [VCCs] conducted by oncologists from nearby urban areas. Through an oncology VCC, cancer patients may receive chemotherapy, biological treatments, and pain management services in their local community. Therefore, using physician office locations to determine rural patient proximity to available cancer care may introduce a significant bias in the resulting estimates of patient travel times…For rural residents of Iowa, the median driving time to the closest site for medical oncology care falls from 51.6 to 19.2 minutes when monthly VCC sites are considered.

Thus, access to care in many rural areas may be far better than previously assumed.


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