Access to care, and adequacy of access for Coloradans, is often on my mind, and it especially was in 2013, as I described in my blog post at the time. We were getting closer to coverage expansions in 2014, and we anticipated many newly insured Coloradans on Medicaid and private plans through the marketplace. However, it remained unclear whether everyone would actually be able to access the care they needed, when they needed it. Unlike coverage, access is difficult to measure because it has so many layers.
Fortunately, CCMU is an organization that enjoys tackling tough issues. In 2014, we convened meetings to discuss the issue at length and came to realize two things. First, we all agreed that access is a local issue, better planned and understood on the community level, as opposed to the state level. And, we realized that Colorado needed a shared, trusted dataset to inform the conversation. The changes we have achieved around coverage were attainable because we first had a trusted set of data informing those conversations, and similarly with access, we needed data to ground our thinking.
At CCMU, we are all about doing—turning conversation into action—so we launched an intensive effort with our local data masters at the Colorado Health Institute to start to address this lack of data around access to care. These folks are so talented! Together, we were inspired by work done by outside experts at the Urban Institute, and began to create Colorado’s very own Access Dashboard. In its final form, the Dashboard will provide some sense of a community’s access to care in three main ways:
- Potential access, which is measured through metrics like the number of providers and clinics that exist to provide care
- Realized access, which is measured through metrics like the number of residents that are actually receiving care
- Barriers to care, which is measured through metrics like the number of residents with health care cost or other issues that keep them from getting the health care they need
The Dashboard is intended to be a tool to help Colorado communities of all kinds better understand the local access to care situation. It isn’t just for geographically-defined communities; the Dashboard reflects information about access to care for communities of color, children, LGBT Coloradans, and other population-based communities. Communities can use the tool as a driver in local conversations, so they can make smart decisions on how to best use their resources. Our hope is that communities will supplement the tool with their own data, stories, and experiences, making it an even more robust illustration of access to care across Colorado. We recognize that the Dashboard will never be able to answer every question about access, but it can start the conversation in the right place—a shared understanding of the current situation.
We’re currently wrapping up testing with a select few communities and using the feedback that we’ve gotten to improve the early drafts of the tool. It will be launched later in 2015, which will cap two years of dedicated thinking, planning, and leading on this important issue. We can’t wait to see communities in action, using the Dashboard to understand and improve access to care!