Demand and level of service inflation in Floating Catchment Area (FCA) methods
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Floating Catchment Area (FCA) methods are a popular tool to investigate accessibility to public facilities, in particular health care services. FCA approaches are attractive because, unlike other accessibility measures, they take into account the potential for congestion of facilities. This is done by 1) considering the population within the catchment area of a facility to calculate a variable that measures level of service, and then 2) aggregating the level of service by population centers subject to catchment area constraints. In this paper we discuss an effect of FCA approaches, an artifact that we term demand and level of service inflation. These artifacts are present in previous implementations of FCA methods. We argue that inflation makes interpretation of estimates of accessibility difficult, which has possible deleterious consequences for decision making. Next, we propose a simple and intuitive approach to proportionally allocate demandand and level of service in FCA calculations. The approach is based on a standardization of the impedance matrix, similar to approaches popular in the spatial statistics and econometrics literature. The result is a more intiuitive measure of accessibility that 1) provides a local version of the provider-to-population ratio; and 2) preserves the level of demand and the level of supply in a system. We illustrate the relevant issues with some examples, and then empirically by means of a case study of accessibility to family physicians in the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), in Ontario, Canada. Results indicate that demand and supply inflation/deflation affect the interpretation of accessibility analysis using existing FCA methods, and that the proposed adjustment can lead to more intuitive results.
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