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Access to Care

The disparities in access to health care can have far-reaching consequences. Those with limited access to basic health care services may live shorter and more constrained lives.

Access to care refers to more than just the physical location of a medical provider. Access can be limited by several factors:

  • Geography: Many people must travel miles to receive specialty care for chronic disease.
  • Transportation: Without reliable and affordable transportation to health care providers, access to health care is a challenge.
  • Health Insurance/Cost of care: It is estimated that the average cost of providing medical care for someone with heart disease approaches $19,000 per year.1 Lack of insurance prevents many from receiving care.
  • Hours of service: Many patients are unable to take time off from work for medical appointments. Non-traditional hours (evenings or weekends) can help increase access.
  • Childcare:  Parents of small children may not have resources for childcare during scheduled medical appointments.
  • Knowledge:  Many individuals are not aware of medical assistance available to them.
  • Residency:  Many health care providers require that a person establish legal residency to receive services.
  • Cultural Norms: Cultural issues play a major role in accessing care. Language, customs, and commonly held beliefs all contribute to the ability of a person to seek medical attention.
  • Trust in doctors and the healthcare system: Many people, particularly those who belong to ethnic minority groups, have lower levels of trust in the health care community because of past discrimination in medical care and research. The trustworthiness, patient-centered orientation, and cultural competency of the doctor and healthcare system can affect access to care.2

Removing these barriers to accessing health care must be addressed if equality of health outcomes is to be attained.

Resources for Medical Care Access

American Heart Association     

American Stroke Association     

American Diabetes Association

Baltimore Health Care Access

Baltimore Medical Systems, Inc.

Chase-Brexton Health Center

Health Care for the Homeless

MD Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene  

MD Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene  

People’s Community Health Center

Total Health Care

Johns Hopkins Community Physicians

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse    

University of Maryland Medical Systems

US Dept. Health & Human Services     


1Nichols GA, Bell TJ, Pedula KL, O'Keeffe-Rosetti M. Medical care costs among people with established cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Managed Care 16(3): 86-93, 2010.

2Cooper LA, Beach MC, Johnson RL, Inui TS. Delving below the surface: Understanding how race and ethnicity influence relationships in healthcare. Journal of General Internal Medicine 21:S21-27, 2006.

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