Document Type


Journal Title

BMC Health Services Research

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BACKGROUND: Healthcare accessibility and utilization are important social determinants of health. Lack of access to healthcare, including missed or no-show appointments, can have negative health effects and be costly to patients and providers. Various office-based approaches and community partnerships can address patient access barriers.

OBJECTIVES: (1) To understand provider perceptions of patient barriers; (2) to describe the policies and practices used to address late or missed appointments, and (3) to evaluate access to patient support services, both in-clinic and with community partners.

METHODS: Mailed cross-sectional survey with online response option, sent to all Nebraska primary care clinics (n = 577) conducted April 2020 and January through April 2021. Chi-square tests compared rural-urban differences; logistic regression of clinical factors associated with policies and support services computed odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

RESULTS: Response rate was 20.3% (n = 117), with 49 returns in 2020. Perceived patient barriers included finances, higher among rural versus urban clinics (81.6% vs. 56.1%, p =.009), and time (overall 52.3%). Welcoming environment (95.5%), telephone appointment reminders (74.8%) and streamlined admissions (69.4%) were the top three clinic practices to reduce missed appointments. Telehealth was the most commonly available patient support service in rural (79.6%) and urban (81.8%, p =.90) clinics. Number of providers was positively associated with having a patient navigator/care coordinator (OR = 1.20, CI = 1.02-1.40). For each percent increase in the number of privately insured patients, the odds of providing legal aid decreased by 4% (OR = 0.96, CI = 0.92-1.00). Urban clinics were less likely than rural clinics to provide social work services (OR = 0.16, CI = 0.04-0.67) or assist with applications for government aid (OR = 0.22, CI = 0.06-0.90).

CONCLUSIONS: Practices to reduce missed appointments included a variety of reminders. Although finances and inability to take time off work were the most frequently reported perceived barriers for patients' access to timely healthcare, most clinics did not directly address them. Rural clinics appeared to have more community partnerships to address underlying social determinants of health, such as transportation and assistance applying for government aid. Taking such a wholistic partnership approach is an area for future study to improve patient access.

MeSH Headings

Humans, COVID-19, Cross-Sectional Studies, Pandemics, Ambulatory Care Facilities, Policy, Primary Health Care



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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