Socioeconomic disparities in home health care service access and utilization: A scoping review

Donna Goodridge, Pamela Hawranik, Vicky Duncan, Hollie Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Home health care services are expanding at a rapid pace in order to meet the needs of the growing population of older adults and those with chronic illnesses. Because of current restrictions on home health care as an insured service in some countries, individuals may be required to pay for some or all of their home care services out of pocket. These payments may potentially limit access to needed home care services for persons in the lowest socioeconomic strata. Previous research demonstrates a clear socioeconomic gradient in access to acute and primary care services, where those most in need of services are the most disadvantaged and under-serviced. There has been little attention paid thus far, however, to the way in which socioeconomic status may affect the receipt of home health care services. Objective: To determine what is known from existing literature about socioeconomic disparities in home health care access and utilization. Design: A scoping review was used to map the extent and nature of the literature in this area. Data sources: A search of the databases CINAHL, Medline, SocIndex and Sociological Abstracts as well as Dissertations International. Review methods: A total of 206 potentially relevant articles were published between 2000 and April 2011. Two reviewers independently reviewed the articles, leaving 15 research articles to be included in the scoping review. Results: The majority of articles reported secondary analyses of administrative datasets related to utilization of home health care. Several studies examined access and utilization using qualitative approaches. The distinction between professional and supportive home care services was not always clear in the articles. Individual and composite measures of socioeconomic status were reported, with the most frequently used indicator being income. Several studies used more complex composite ecological indicators of socieconomic status. There was general agreement that utilization of home health services favored persons with greater economic disadvantage. Education, rurality and race were less frequently reported. Conclusions: In contrast to well-documented socioeconomic gradient seen with primary and acute care services, we found general agreement that persons of lower socioeconomic status are favored and not disadvantaged in terms of home health care services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1310-1319
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct. 2012


  • Community-based care
  • Disparities
  • Equity
  • Home health care
  • Socioeconomic status


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