Hospitals and Health Systems

Harnessing Geospatial Data for Informed Healthcare Planning

In today’s ever-changing healthcare landscape, data-informed decision-making is vital for organizations to navigate complexities with confidence. Geospatial data, harnessed through geographic information system (GIS) technology, provides a powerful foundation for strategic planning, operational efficiency, population health management, equity initiatives, and targeted marketing. In this blog, we will explore how geospatial data underpins informed healthcare planning, empowering organizations to purposefully align decisions with health system needs while also driving positive health outcomes.

I. Geospatial Data for Strategic Planning and Operations

Geospatial data serves as the backbone of strategic planning and operational efficiency in healthcare. By integrating various data streams, such as demographics, health metrics from electronic health records, public health data resources, and healthcare facilities information, GIS enables organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of their current situation and forecast potential changes. This data-informed decision-making reduces uncertainty and guides critical determinations, such as facility siting, resource allocation, and the deployment or expansion of telehealth services. It can help organizations avoid costly errors by anticipating competition, identifying underperforming sites early, and monitoring unusual or inappropriate utilization patterns, such as overuse of hospital emergency services for preventable conditions like asthma exacerbation or hyperglycemia. Geospatial insights help organizations optimize service mix, align offerings with community needs and facilitate sustainable growth strategies.

II. Geospatial Data for Population Health Management and Equity

Population health management is a critical application of geospatial data. GIS aids in stratifying risk across served populations, identifying high-risk communities, and guiding targeted interventions. Geospatial analysis enables healthcare organizations to answer vital questions, such as: Where are the high incidences of chronic diseases? Are certain populations facing barriers to access care? Where are there disparities in health outcomes and what are the root causes? This insight helps organizations direct resources where they are most needed, improving health outcomes and reducing disparities. By incorporating historic redlining data and vulnerability indices, geospatial analysis can unveil persistent structural inequities and inform modern multi-dimensional solutions.

III. Geospatial Data for Marketing and Communications

Geospatial data plays a crucial role in targeted marketing and effective communication with patients and communities. Demographic data, combined with lifestyle and behavior insights, allows organizations to tailor messaging, services, and care delivery to specific population segments. Additionally, geospatial insights derived from attitudes, beliefs and sentiments help organizations understand community preferences, engagement patterns, and urgent concerns. By leveraging geospatial data, healthcare organizations can deliver personalized and impactful marketing campaigns, fostering patient engagement and satisfaction.

Geospatial data is a transformative asset in healthcare planning, offering valuable insights for strategic decision-making, population health management, equity initiatives, and targeted marketing. By harnessing the power of GIS, organizations can align resources with health system needs, reduce disparities, and enhance health outcomes. Geospatial data enables healthcare organizations to navigate complexities with precision, effectively delivering patient-centered care and making data-informed decisions that positively impact communities. Embracing geospatial insights as a foundational element of healthcare planning empowers organizations to adapt, innovate, and drive meaningful change in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

Learn more about how geospatial data improves local level community understanding and supports your planning and operational needs.

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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