The Geographic Distribution of Pediatric Anesthesiologists Relative to the US Pediatric Population

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The geographic relationship between pediatric anesthesiologists and the pediatric population has potentially important clinical and policy implications. In the current study, we describe the geographic distribution of pediatric anesthesiologists relative to the US pediatric population (0–17 years) and a subset of the pediatric population (0–4 years).

METHODS:

The percentage of the US pediatric population that lives within different driving distances to the nearest pediatric anesthesiologist (0 to 25 miles, >25 to 50 miles, >50 to 100 miles, >100 to 250 miles, and >250 miles) was determined by creating concentric driving distance service areas surrounding pediatric anesthesiologist practice locations. US Census block groups were used to determine the sum pediatric population in each anesthesiologist driving distance service area. The pediatric anesthesiologist-to-pediatric population ratio was then determined for each of the 306 hospital referral regions (HRRs) in the United States and compared with ratios of other physician groups to the pediatric population. All geographic mapping and analysis was performed using ArcGIS Desktop 10.2.2 mapping software (Redlands, CA).

RESULTS:

A majority of the pediatric population (71.4%) lives within a 25-mile drive of a pediatric anesthesiologist; however, 10.2 million US children (0–17 years) live greater than 50 miles from the nearest pediatric anesthesiologist. More than 2.7 million children ages 0 to 4 years live greater than 50 miles from the nearest identified pediatric anesthesiologist. The median ratio of pediatric anesthesiologists to 100,000 pediatric population at the HRR level was 2.25 (interquartile range, 0–5.46). Pediatric anesthesiologist geographic distribution relative to the pediatric population by HRR is lower and less uniform than for all anesthesiologists, neonatologists, and pediatricians.

CONCLUSIONS:

A substantial proportion of the US pediatric population lives greater than 50 miles from the nearest pediatric anesthesiologist, and pediatric anesthesiologist-to-pediatric population ratios by HRR vary widely across the United States. These findings are important given that the new guidelines from the American College of Surgeons Children’s Surgery Verification™ Quality Improvement Program state that pediatric anesthesiologists must care for a subset of pediatric patients. Because of the geographic distribution of pediatric anesthesiologists relative to the pediatric population, access to care by a pediatric anesthesiologist may not be feasible for all children, particularly for those with limited resources or in emergent situations.

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