Locating Medical Specialties across Care Networks to Improve Costs and Access

Abstract

Optimal location of specialty care services within any healthcare network is increasingly important for balancing costs, access to care, and patient-centeredness. Typical long-range planning efforts attempt to address a myriad of quantitative and qualitative issues, including within-network access within reasonable travel distances, space capacity constraints, costs, politics, and community commitments. The use of systems engineering models to help inform these decisions can be very effective at designing both cost-efficient and qualified healthcare services, especially in cases involving complex and competing considerations. Network planning is one of several areas that can be improved via systems engineering methods, with the optimal location of health services across geographic care networks having significant potential to improve costs, patient-centeredness, and care continuity. This study describes recent experiences to use such models across a range of specialty care services within the Veterans Health Administration.