Access to health services in an urban community: does source of care make a difference?

J Urban Health. 2002 Jun;79(2):186-99. doi: 10.1093/jurban/79.2.186.


The importance of having a usual source of medical care is well established. Few studies, however, examine whether there are differences in health care utilization associated with the type of site used and whether having a primary clinician is more important than site in influencing utilization. The aim of this study was to examine these issues and assess the relative importance of usual source of care characteristics in determining access to a variety of health services. The study was based on a cross-sectional survey of a household probability sample of 695 adults from Central Harlem in New York City. Outcomes examined included use of hospitals as the regular source of care compared with other types of providers, having a usual clinician, receipt of various preventive health services, and illness-related utilization. Multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that men and people of lower socioeconomic status were significantly (P <or=.05) more likely to rely on hospitals alone as the usual source of care. People who exclusively used hospitals for ambulatory services were 72% less likely to have a primary clinician compared with those using other types of medical care sources. Having a usual source of care of any type was a significant predictor of receipt of five of eight health care services examined; having a main clinician was associated with four of the services. However, type of site used was unrelated to utilization. The impact of having a usual source of care appears to be independent of the effect of having a primary clinical provider, suggesting that having an initial portal into the health care system is as important as possessing an ongoing relationship with a clinician in ensuring access to services. Socioeconomic factors remain important influences on gaining entry into the health care system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Health Services / statistics & numerical data*