Wherever you see an emergency, chances are there is the need for medical care. That’s just one reason why GIS training is so important in the healthcare industry. Geographic information systems technology and knowledge can help reduce the potential impact of an emergency by helping to foresee and avoid it, and also provide important tools for dealing with the aftermath.
Susan Cutter, a professor of geography at the University of South Carolina and director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, is an expert in vulnerability and resilience. She says that GIS is an important tool in hazard mapping, as she told Emergency Management.
The concept involves tracking the locations of hazards as well as the context of where people work and live. Using mapping and analytic tools, officials and experts can examine the interaction of humans and dangers.
GIS can be used for situational awareness, for identifying ideal locations for prepositioning assets ahead of an impact, for understanding the relationship between hazard exposure and social vulnerability as part of the hazard mitigation planning process. GIS models and simulation capabilities enable decision-makers to both exercise response and recovery plans during non-disaster times and also understand near real-time possibilities during an event. Essentially, if you have data, it can be mapped, analyzed and utilized to make better decisions in a measurable amount of time.
The more thoroughly and effectively a community can see how an event could interact with home and work, the greater a chance it can mitigate the effects of problems through preparation and public policy.
Using GIS to anticipate and properly prepare for problems isn’t limited to major accidents and natural disasters. In the U.K., the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, or IHT, has found GIS is an important tool for its planning, according to ComputerWeekly. The institution sees 30,000 unplanned emergency admissions a year in an area with a population of 365,000.
The hospital wanted to move to a spoke and hub model, with the institution at the center and a network of affiliated care providers and services. To do so required mapping demand. The hospital had tried using spreadsheets to monitor and analyze the health data, but they didn’t offer the necessary capabilities.
Instead, it worked with GIS vendor Esri to combine GIS and location analytics with clinical and financial data to find the relevant usage and financial trends and the associated risks. Now executives can use dashboards of key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as additional tools like hotspot map analysis to see geographic demand.
“Understanding where demand comes from in emergency admissions, and the type and level of that demand, has allowed IHT to pinpoint areas of intervention to mitigate it and channel more resources to high-demand areas.”
Moving to an analytic and predictive approach allows emergency management and healthcare officials to better anticipate needs and allocate resources.