THE CHALLENGE: Given a scarcity of healthcare facilities, optimize the location of new healthcare facilities in order to provide equitable access to healthcare services for rural and urban populations. Optimizing hospital locations is a typical optimization problem, albeit a complex one. Multiple objectives such as maximizing access to hospitals and minimizing construction costs must be achieved under constraints such as population served per hospital, spatial distribution, equity of access, transportation infrastructure, and terrain topology. Adding further complexity to the cost function is that some facilities may provide different or more advanced services than others.
THE METHODOLOGY: The problem of choosing geographic locations of new district hospitals was solved by determining the position of the best set of supply points (hospital facilities) within a given area (country) based on the distribution of potential demand points (residents).
Considerations for residents that were factored into the model included equity of access, coverage, and commute. Equity factors were evaluated by balancing between coverage for a geographically sparse/rural populace and coverage for the high population-density areas.
Detailed policy guidelines can also be incorporated. For example, population-weighted travel distance of the population to each facility can be computed, with a constraint on maximum distance any person must travel, or a maximum or minimum number of people within a specific distance from a facility can be considered.