Traveling Towards Disease: Transportation Barriers to Health Care Access


Transportation barriers are often cited as barriers to healthcare access. Transportation barriers lead to rescheduled or missed appointments, delayed care, and missed or delayed medication use. These consequences may lead to poorer management of chronic illness and thus poorer health outcomes. However, the significance of these barriers is uncertain based on existing literature due to wide variability in both study populations and transportation barrier measures. The authors sought to synthesize the literature on the prevalence of transportation barriers to health care access. A systematic literature search of peer-reviewed studies on transportation barriers to healthcare access was performed. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) study addressed access barriers for ongoing primary care or chronic disease care; (2) study included assessment of transportation barriers; and (3) study was completed in the United States. In total, 61 studies were reviewed. Overall, the evidence supports that transportation barriers are an important barrier to healthcare access, particularly for those with lower incomes or the under/uninsured. Additional research needs to (1) clarify which aspects of transportation limit health care access (2) measure the impact of transportation barriers on clinically meaningful outcomes and (3) measure the impact of transportation barrier interventions and transportation policy changes.

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We would like to acknowledge Dr. Shannon Zenk and Kathy Korytkowski for their editing and support in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Samina T. Syed.

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Syed, S.T., Gerber, B.S. & Sharp, L.K. Traveling Towards Disease: Transportation Barriers to Health Care Access. J Community Health 38, 976–993 (2013).

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  • Healthcare access
  • Transportation barriers
  • Medication access
  • Healthcare barriers