Objective: To compare measures of spatial access to care commonly used by policy makers and researchers with the more comprehensive enhanced two-step floating catchment area (E2SFCA) method.
Study setting: Fourteen southwestern Pennsylvania counties.
Study design: We estimated spatial access to buprenorphine-waivered prescribers using three commonly used measures-Euclidean travel distance to the closest prescriber, travel time to the closest provider, and provider-to-population ratios-and the E2SFCA. Unlike other measures, the E2SFCA captures provider capacity, potential patient volume, and travel time to prescribers.
Data collection/extraction methods: We measured provider capacity as the number of buprenorphine prescribers listed at a given address in the Drug Enforcement Agency's 2020 Controlled Substances Act Registrants Database, and we measured potential patient volume as the number of nonelderly adults in a given census tract as reported by the 2018 American Community Survey. We estimated travel times between potential patients and prescribers with Bing Maps and Mapbox application programming interfaces. We then calculated each spatial access measure using the R programming language. We used each measure of spatial access to identify census tracts in the lowest quintile of spatial access to prescribers.
Principal findings: The Euclidean distance, travel time, and provider-to-population ratio measures identified 48.3%, 47.2%, and 69.9% of the census tracts that the E2SFCA measure identified as being in the lowest quintile of spatial access to care, meaning that these measures misclassify 30%-52% of study area census tracts as having sufficient spatial access to buprenorphine prescribers.
Conclusions: Measures of spatial access commonly used by policy makers do not sufficiently accurately identify geographic areas with relatively low access to prescribers of buprenorphine. Using the E2SFCA in addition to the commonly used measures would allow policy makers to precisely target interventions to increase spatial access to opioid use disorder treatment and other types of health care services.
Keywords: buprenorphine; geographic access; geographic information systems; medical geography; opioid use disorder; spatial access; substance use disorder.
© 2021 Health Research and Educational Trust.