Where to enhance rural palliative care? Developing a spatial model to identify suitable communities most in need of service enhancement Schuurman, Nadine; Martin, Michael E; Crooks, Valorie A; Randall, Ellen
Background: In Canada, access to palliative care is a growing concern, particularly in rural communities. These communities have constrained health care services and accessing local palliative care can be challenging. The Site Suitability Model (SSM) was developed to identify rural “candidate” communities with need for palliative care services and existing health service capacity that could be enhanced to support a secondary palliative care hub. The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility of implementing the SSM in Ontario by generating a ranked summary of rural “candidate” communities as potential secondary palliative care hubs. Methods: Using Census data combined with community-level data, the SSM was applied to assess the suitability of 12 communities as rural secondary palliative care hubs. Scores from 0 to 1 were generated for four equally-weighted components: (1) population as the total population living within a 1-h drive of a candidate community; (2) isolation as travel time from that community to the nearest community with palliative care services; (3) vulnerability as community need based on a palliative care index score; and (4) community readiness as five dimensions of fit between a candidate community and a secondary palliative care hub. Component scores were summed for the SSM score and adjusted to range from 0 to 1. Results: Population scores for the 12 communities ranged widely (0.19–1.00), as did isolation scores (0.16–0.94). Vulnerability scores ranged more narrowly (0.27–0.35), while community readiness scores ranged from 0.4–1.0. These component scores revealed information about each community’s particular strengths and weaknesses. Final SSM scores ranged from a low of 0.33 to a high of 0.76. Conclusions: The SSM was readily implemented in Ontario. Final scores generated a ranked list based on the relative suitability of candidate communities to become secondary palliative care hubs. This list provides information for policy makers to make allocation decisions regarding rural palliative services. The calculation of each community’s scores also generates information for local policy makers about how best to provide these services within their communities. The multi-factorial structure of the model enables decision makers to adapt the relative weights of its components.
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