GIS Plays Critical Role in Future of Health Care

– GIS Helps Health Care Organizations Make Better Strategic Business Decisions –

AURORA, Colo. – December 10, 2013 – Geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies offer tremendous benefits for the health care industry. Whether used in strategic planning for hospitals, epidemiological studies by public health officials or policy construction by government agencies, GIS is important for accurate and nuanced analysis and decision support.

Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University says that GIS has become important to any modern health care organization that wants to more efficiently examine information for better strategic directions and decisions.

“From the analysis of big data related to patient demographics and insurance claims to facility site location and accessibility to health care, GIS can play a critical role in improving the strategic business decision-making process of heath care organizations large and small,” says Dr. McElroy.

So the question is not whether to implement GIS in health care, but how.

GIS Training for Health Care Professionals

GIS offers a wealth of specialized applications and tools which an organization might want to access that require a unique collection of expertise, including databases, visual design, geographic concepts, mathematical modeling, enterprise software and data analysis.

Health care organizations of any sort can hire GIS consultants or even employees whose primary background is in the technology and its various applications. But Dr. McElroy says that many organizations should consider GIS training for their health care professionals.

GIS training is important for health care professionals because having a basic understanding of the geographic aspects of the community that one serves can be of great benefit to public health professionals. Knowledge about community demographics, incidence of health and disease and locations of health care facilities are essential aspects of a standard community health assessment,” says Dr. McElroy.

He points out that the increased availability of user-friendly GIS tools and mapping portals should make getting GIS into the hands of health care professionals even easier.

“The ability to access, use and display basic health-related datasets using GIS technology should be a fundamental proficiency that all health care workers should attain,” he adds.

Harnessing Spatial Visualization Power of GIS

GIS mapping can make disease monitoring and surveillance come to life.

Dr. McElroy says the incorporation of volunteered geographic information via social media postings is an innovative way in which health agencies are leveraging the power of novel technologies. Researchers have found that social media provides a reliable and timely means of identifying potential health concerns within the larger community.

As second way in which GIS is being introduced into the contemporary health setting is through the concept of geomedicine that proposes there is a linkage between the places that we live, work and play.

“An individual’s health should not be based solely on the current residential and work conditions, but be a reflection of all of the locations in which that person has lived over time,” say Dr. McElroy.

The geography of place provides the context within which health care professionals can assess environmental factors from a place-based history of location and make judgments about diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

“The application of geomedicine principles offers a more holistic view of the myriad factors that affect long-term health outcomes,” adds Dr. McElroy.

Tools for Tomorrow’s Health Care

Dr. McElroy says that what the health care industry needs are professionals appropriately trained to obtain data, use basic GIS tools and undertake analysis for the information necessary for their job functions in care delivery, epidemiology, wellness research or even capital and capacity planning or marketing.

“The need to become better at health care, to address serious public health issues, to more wisely employ expensive resources and even to more intelligently and effectively bring services to market demands GIS capabilities,” says Dr. McElroy.

This isn’t to say that nurses, doctors and executives all must become GIS specialists.

Dr. McElroy says the more specialized work can still be handled by GIS experts. However, he says that learning about fundamental GIS tools, geographic and data concepts and data manipulation and analysis through an online certificate program would help prepare health care professionals to use an important tool and to better carry out their existing duties.

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s online GIS and technology degree programs.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.