A Study of Alaska Health Care Referral Systems and Networks (2002)

Jan Harris, MA, MSHA
Mariko Selle, BS
Kathy Graves, ABD, MSW
Janice Troyer, BS

The Alaska Center for Rural Health (ACRH), UAA, contracted with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Section of Community Health and Emergency Medical Services, Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, to collect referral systems data from health care organizations across the state. The Office of Primary Care and Rural Health anticipated using the data to produce maps, which will depict referral patterns throughout Alaska.

As health care organizations grow and develop within the State of Alaska, their networking dynamics grow increasingly complex and difficult to pinpoint. Understanding these interactions is important in perceiving the system as a whole. This assessment sought to provide the necessary tools to describe how referral patterns and health care network structures contribute to access to health care for citizens.

The Alaska Center for Rural Health conducted a telephone survey of facility managers and medical directors be conducted using a database of health care facilities provided by the Division of Public Health. This database included Critical Access Hospitals, Public Health Nursing Sites, Primary Care Sites (medical, dental and mental health), Acute Care Facilities, Native Health Care Facilities, Community Health Centers, and other rural health centers across the state. The collected data was compiled in an Excel spreadsheet, provided electronically to the Alaska Office of Primary Care and Rural Health.