Health Geographics: improving medical care with GIS

A post from Solizma in the Intro GIS course.

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA uses GIS applications to treat illnesses, address medical issues, and analyze health abnormalities. The only hospital with a full-time GIS staff, Baystate initiated its health geographics program in 1998. Since then they have been awarded the ESRI “Special Achievement in GIS” Award in 2002 and ESRI “Vision” Award in 2004 at ESRI’s International Health GIS Conference. (The latest conference proceedings are here.)

Baystate’s GIS staff have experience in demographics; cancer, cardiovascular disease, and injury epidemiology; hospital facilities; non-hospital facility siting; healthcare marketing; bioterrorism; and emergency preparedness, planning and support. Current applications vary in scale from single human organs to the whole hospital to multiple states.

The medical center staff are developing a “four-tiered conceptual model for hospital surge capacity planning and response” which they have named the “Healthcare Preparedness Infosphere (HPI).” This GIS-based model is made up of four “health information systems” that provide hospital healthcare, situational awareness, incident management, and decision support at multiple levels ranging from the individual hospital to multiple states. The model allows tracking of patients, resources, and assets, and it can be used to support improved
healthcare and quality. It is applicable to both routine situations or emergencies and disasters.

Another current initiative of the GIS unit at the medical center is flu tracking: staff are mapping the historic geographic distribution of flu and pneumonia patients to identify areas of higher incidence. Staff will use this information to plan vaccination clinics and educational activities accordingly.

The “Rays of Hope” breast cancer program used US Census data to determine areas of breast cancer screening nocompliance by looking at geographic areas with a high advanced-stage-to-case ratio (ASCR). That is, they looked for areas with a high proportion of advanced stage breast cancer cases out of the total number of cases, which indicates that the cases are not getting detected as early as they could or should. The screening noncompliance areas were identified by spatial analysis and their demographic characterisics were evaluated. Based on these results, researchers were able to design screening programs to target high-risk areas, allowing optimal allocation of resources and a maximization of screening yield.

[Of course, the assumption above is that this is a geographic phenomenon when instead it may be more strongly correlated to poverty or availability of health insurance–Sieber]

At a much finer scale, Baystate staff are using GIS to analyze results of Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery (TEM). This surgical procedure requires parallel positioning of instruments in a 4 by 20 cm long rectoscope. Researchers want to determine whether location of the polyp requiring operation in the rectum correlates with difficulty in performing the surgery. A cylindrical coordinate system and topology is being used as a basis for both 2-D and 3-D visualization and analysis. Findings indicate that polyp location may be relevant to the
limitations of the surgery.

Other initiatives and applications at Baystate include hospital mapping, route optimization management for delivery trucks and drivers serving home-bound patients, trauma surveillance, and development of a regional geodatabase to provide basemap support for regional emergency preparedness, planning, response, recovery, and hazard vulnerability assessment. See the links below for more information.

Overview of Baystate’s Health Geographics Program

Baystate Health

ESRI: Medical Center Improves Community Programs with GIS

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