The number of hospital beds per capita, an important measure of equity in healthcare availability and resource allocation, was found to vary across geographic areas in many countries, including the USA. The hospital service areas (HSAs) have proven to be more meaningful spatial units for studying health-seeking behaviors and health resource allocation and service utilization. However, when evaluating the geographical balance in ratios of hospital beds to population (HBtP), no existing HSA delineation methods directly consider the underlying population distribution. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), this study incorporated the State Inpatient Database with census data to develop a population-based HSA delineation method. The census-derived HSAs were produced for Florida and were validated by aggregating and comparing with the traditional flow-based HSAs. The difference in current ratios of HBtP between the most over- and under-served HSAs was approximately 60 times. Significant clusters of high and low ratios were found in Miami and Jacksonville metropolitan areas, respectively. Such results may be of interest to relevant stakeholders and contribute to planning and optimization of hospital resource allocation and healthcare policy-making. Furthermore, the discovery of a strong correlation between the numbers of hospital discharges and the population at ZIP code level holds a remarkable potential for affordable population estimation, especially in non-census years.
- Hospital discharge
- Hospital service area