Need, demand, supply in health care: working definitions, and their implications for defining access

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effective policymaking in healthcare systems begins with a clear typology
of the terminology – need, demand, supply and access to care – and
their interrelationships. However, the terms are contested and their
meaning is rarely stated explicitly.
This paper offers working definitions of need, demand, and supply. We
draw on the international literature and use a Venn diagram to explain
the terms. We then define access to care, reviewing alternative and
competing definitions from the literature. We conclude by discussing
potential applications of our conceptual framework to help to understand
the interrelationships and trade-offs between need, demand, supply and
access in health care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Economics, Policy and Law
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), 2021


  • Health Services Needs and Demand, Health Services Accessibility

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