Delineating Hierarchical Hospital Service Areas in Florida

Peng Jia, Fahui Wang, Imam M. Xierali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Hospital service area (HSA) and hospital referral region (HRR), known as a hierarchical HSA system, have been used as analysis units in a growing body of large-scale studies of healthcare spending, utilization, and outcome in the United States. However, the popular Dartmouth HSAs and HRRs were produced more than two decades ago and are unable to represent contemporary healthcare markets. This research uses a revised Huff Model to delineate two levels of hospital service areas in Florida, resulting in sixty-four HSAs nested in twenty-one HRRs. Three elements distinguish our method from existing work. First, a best-fitting distance-decay function derived from the actual travel pattern of hospitalization is embedded in the Huff Model to strengthen the model's theoretical foundation in individual spatial behavior. Secondly, the hierarchal central place structure is supported by the differing travel-friction coefficients for general versus specialized patients; general patients experience a steeper gradient and thus a shorter average travel range that supports delineating more HSAs of smaller area size, and specialized patients exhibit a flatter gradient and thus a longer average travel range that leads to fewer HRRs of large-sized areas. Finally, the delineation method automated in geographic information systems (GIS) can be easily replicated in other regions to define large-scale and consistent hierarchical HSA systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-623
Number of pages16
JournalGeographical Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Florida
  • Huff Model
  • State Inpatient Database (SID)
  • central place theory
  • distance-decay function
  • hospital referral regions (HRRs)
  • hospital service areas (HSAs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Delineating Hierarchical Hospital Service Areas in Florida'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this