Hospitals and Health Systems

Applying GIS for Enhancing Network Health & Equity

Every healthcare journey is unique. Yet, when viewed from a macro perspective, these individual pathways reveal patterns, gaps, and opportunities that can be addressed to create a more resilient healthcare system – a system that is convenient and accessible, where people get check-ups and screenings, and the cost of care diminishes. Enter the world of network adequacy and optimization—a multidimensional domain connecting geography with healthcare, where providers and patients converge, and disparities in access to care are brought to the forefront. This blog invites you to explore this dynamic realm and uncover the transformative potential of geographic information system (GIS) technology in shaping future healthcare trajectories.

Understanding Network Adequacy & Its Intricacies

At its core, network adequacy represents a standard. It ensures that health plans meet specific criteria, whether set by state or federal authorities. These criteria are meant to ensure that insurance plan members can access their entitled benefits without undue hardship.

However, defining “adequacy” is more complex than it appears:

Such challenges are underpinned by multiple influencing factors: geographic accessibility, capacity constraints, fluctuating costs, quality of care, and an ever-evolving regulatory landscape. Still, amid these complexities, the goal remains constant: improve health outcomes for the population.

Why GIS is Indispensable in This Journey?

The beauty of GIS lies in its precision and depth. It provides an indispensable perspective, allowing healthcare providers and planners to gauge patient access across diverse metrics:

It’s worth noting at this stage that not all GIS technology systems are the same. It’s critical to assess a system’s ability to geocode addresses with high precision and ensure that travel calculations are made using an accurate street network. If these are not correct, how can you be sure you’re really solving for access problems?

Sentara Healthcare, serving Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, identified areas with high emergency department utilization rates to address health disparities and adjust the organization’s service offerings.

How GIS Transforms Healthcare Landscapes

Beyond the intricate calculations surrounding geographic access to healthcare lies the transformative potential of spatial data science in optimizing network configurations, making informed staffing decisions, and identifying growth avenues. Applying GIS as an analytical tool, healthcare organizations can tap into a wellspring of opportunities:

The convergence of GIS with healthcare is not just timely; it’s transformative. In a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the value of GIS in streamlining network health and promoting health equity cannot be understated. The opportunity to leverage this powerful tool is immense. Let’s embark on this transformative journey together.

Let’s talk about your network’s health. Write to us at healthinfo@esri.com.

About the author

Dr. Este Geraghty, MD, MS, MPH, CPH, GISP, is the Chief Medical Officer at Esri where she leads strategy and messaging for the Health and Human Services sector. Dr. Geraghty has been with Esri since 2014 and has led business development and solution development in the market. During her time at Esri, Dr. Geraghty has helped organizations around the world use location intelligence to combat Zika virus, finish the fight against polio, grapple with the opioid crisis, combat homelessness, enhance health preparedness and response, inform strategic planning, optimize healthcare access, and traverse the COVID-19 pandemic while tackling inequity. Formerly the Deputy Director of the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics with the California Department of Public Health, Dr. Geraghty led the state vital records and public health informatics programs. There she engaged in statewide initiatives in meaningful use, health information exchange, open data and interoperability. While serving as an Associate Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine at the University of California at Davis she conducted research on geographic approaches to influencing health policy and advancing community development programs. In addition to her degrees in Medicine, Medical Informatics and Public Health, Dr. Geraghty is also a board-certified public health professional (CPH) and a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP).

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