Geographic and geospatial information systems, or GIS, have become an important tool for the healthcare industry. By tagging data with an associated location and performing analyses, care providers can gain insights to help all parts of organizations, whether strategic capital planning, public health concerns, marketing, or operational efficiency.
However, GIS cannot exist unto itself. A provider organization has an existing infrastructure of technology, data, analysis, and management systems already in place. To make care delivery more cost-efficient and effective, those with a GIS degree will have to work with other technical staff and management to integrate the new geospatial software with existing technology:
Healthcare is certainly no stranger to the complications of managing data between EMR/EHR Systems, AP/GL systems, third-party clinical imaging/lab software – the list goes on. Not to mention the growing list of ACOs, continuing care retirement communities and managed care organizations that are struggling to achieve successful coordination of care with disparate technologies. Sharing all of this data with the necessary stakeholders is not only time consuming, it is increasingly difficult with the complex state, federal and HIPAA regulatory environments.
All information systems, including GIS, will have to become part of a larger concept called enterprise content management. The amount of data that a GIS program might eventually need to include is massive in a healthcare provider and could include the following:
- paper documents
- billing records
- electronic medical/health records
- financial and accounting systems
- commercial third-party data
- government data
- hospital or clinical systems
Because of regulations and privacy issues, any set of technologies to manage the overall content of a care provider will need to be secure from external threats and internal misuse. The architecture of a system will need great flexibility in the types and formats of data it can incorporate.
Beyond technology alone, there will have to be processes and provisions to ensure data quality: Analysis based on inaccurate or misinterpreted data could turn out to be useless at best, or send executives making dangerous or damaging decisions. Not only will the systems need to be internal, but they will ultimately have interfaces to other service providers, testing labs, insurance companies, and regulators. GIS analysis could easily need data about outcome efficacy, service billings, and realized payments.
Such an approach cannot happen overnight. But by considering the long term necessities of integrated enterprise data management and analysis, GIS practitioners will lay the groundwork for smart implementations that will anticipate the future needs of care organizations and be able to meet developing needs.