As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, even when health care services are available and free, patients still face barriers to access, like being able to get time off work or finding a ride to their appointment. These problems are neither new nor equally felt: Research shows missed medical appointments are more common among people with lower socioeconomic status and among racial/ethnic minorities. They are also associated with worse health outcomes and can raise costs and administrative hassles for medical providers. A new paper in the journal Health Services Research looks at how improvements in public transportation can improve people’s access to care.
Researchers Laura Barrie Smith, Zhiyou Yang, Ezra Golberstein, Peter Huckfeldt, Ateev Mehrotra and Hannah Neprash examined the frequency of missed clinic appointments before and after the 2014 opening of a new light rail line in Minneapolis-St. Paul that connected high-poverty residential neighborhoods with the downtown areas in each city. The authors looked at 3.5 million clinic appointments at 97 clinics over a four-year period to see whether the likelihood of missed appointments changed after the new rail line opened.
The above excerpt was originally published in Tradeoffs.
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