Modelling health care utilization: an applied Geographical Information Systems approach

  • Kenneth Spencer Field

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research has emanated from the geographical concerns raised by organisational change in the British National Health Service (NHS), namely the ongoing debate relating to health and health care inequalities. This thesis develops a flexible, portable and predictive model of health care utilization capable of assisting improved health care planning and analysis. In so doing it contributes to the current resurgence in medical geography. An applied approach to this research is identified which builds upon methods of modelling spatial patterns and processes in geography and the upsurge of interest in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology. In these terms, the use of GIS is central to the research; it supports construction and application of the model; facilitates a wide range of analyses; and provides a basis for visualisation and interpretation of model results. The value of modelling in analysing relationships between health inequalities and the location and allocation of health care is identified through a discussion of previous NHS policy initiatives and previous research. From this, a conceptual model of utilization is developed which incorporates components of need, accessibility and provision. A patient survey of asthmatics and diabetics informs the development of the model and validates the choice of indicators used to measure utilization. Indicators of need, accessibility and utilization are thus defined and subsequently measured using a signed chi-square scoring method. The model was developed and tested for primary care General Practitioner services in the Northampton District Health Authority area and outcome measures are proposed and evaluated. Rigorous testing of the model’s sensitivity and robustness is undertaken and potential for its simplification explored. Components are critically evaluated through a comparison with alternative methods of determining spatial inequalities in disadvantage. The potential of the model of utilization for health care planning and analysis is extensively demonstrated through the application of a variety of modelled scenarios. Emergent issues from the research are considered and potential for future geographical research in this area of study, and the impact upon research agendas more generally, is explored
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorDavid J Briggs (Supervisor)

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