COVID-19 cases are being tracked in the world and the tool we are using is online maps. Geo-scientists Help Map the Pandemic with a multidisciplinary approach by combining geospatial technology with medicine world. Both public and private sectors are developing innovative ways to evolve using data integration and spatial visualization power of GIS.

Geographic information systems have evolved as a progressive and convenient way to present data to consumers. GIS is a sophisticated form of mapping software that enables users to visually display input data associated with a designated project. GIS allows users to Group patient’s demographic data and can be displayed visually in a new way.

Geographical information systems allows users to run statistical tests and answer the questions arise for any change observed in the disease scenario. Six potential benefits of integrating geographic information systems in healthcare:

Identifying Health Trends

The software available can help professionals to identify health related trends and that can benefit targeting the healing efforts based upon those results.
Healthcare professionals can trace the locations of patients and determine if there are groups of specific types of disease associated with similar working conditions or residential areas. An systematic approach for tracking the patients of diseases like diabetes, cancer, HIV or any viral infection can assist prevalent and begin proactively implementing preventative strategies or staffing healthcare professionals skilled in specific medical specialties. It helps tracking child immunizations, conducting health policy research, and establishing service areas and districts.

Tracking the Spread of Infectious Disease

The role of Geographic information systems should not be limited simply to track occurrences of diseases. One of its strongest aspects is its potential to use geography and other inputs to identify where diseases are most likely to spread next. Data such as this can be indispensable to on-the-ground personnel working to save lives because it enables them to adopt and arrange respective equipment and facilities for a disease outbreak and can severely limit the impact.

Recently, Geographic Information system is being used in tracking the COVID-19 patients by the involvement of GPS and Bluetooth. Google helped people in searching nearby shelters for food and to stay just with one click during the epidemic and lock-down. Also, Public Health Program utilizes geographic information systems in many of its different initiatives, including the Cancer Surveillance Program.
Demographic data, such as home address, workplace, disease type, and even data collected from wearable health tech of all patients entered into the system can be accessed through the software. The collected information is then georeferenced and then mapped. Some apps are being developed for COVID-19 which helps contact tracing, isolation zones, containment area and identifying the nearby patient.

The map showing data for COVID-19 pandemic world wide(April 2020)

The disease outbreak tracking isn’t new as it played significant role in the management of disease spread such as Ebola and measles. In past, the maps were a powerful tool during the Disneyland measles outbreak in December of 2014, GIS-based maps were created to help visualize where infected children lived and the potential spread of the disease. Adding to it, maps were used in tracking the effects of vaccine and its impact in the region. We can hope that the day we will get the vaccine for COVID-19, maps will again put into the work to trace vaccination rates and its distribution.

Utilizing Personal Tech

Applications of GIS in personal health care aren’t that wide but it can greatly impact broad regional treatment plans.
The collection of large quantities of accurate personal data and representing it into statistical format is expected to reveal a great deal about personalized healthcare.
These days the technology is being used for collecting a very broad amount of healthcare information such as average heart rate, sleeping patterns, and exposure to the sun. Wearable technology is capable of adding this data to GIS software that could help determine if the average heart rate or sleeping patterns of individuals varies over geographic areas. Collection of such data can reveal the sleeping patterns, lifestyle change and its effects on people living in a particular region.

Incorporating Social Media

Today in this smart world with smart people, everyone is equipped with smart phones and this is a significant addition for researchers. In a previous report from 2012-2013 during flu season, researchers tracked tweeter accounts with tweets indicating sick people in US. Social media emerged widely in last few years with the evolution of phones and its availability. Using this for gathering information with keywords like ‘flu’, ‘influenza,’ and ‘medication’, researchers followed down the geographical locations of the person who sent the tweet, they were able to visualize the status of the flu in the US for that year. This helped them in analysing the future trend of the flu.
The same technique is used for many such diseases and still people are tracking down the patients and trying to deliver help on time.

Improving Services

The use of GIS technology have enabled community leaders and decision makers to work more closely with hospitals to take larger steps in addressing nationwide healthcare needs. The structured approach helps identifying which neighbourhoods are in greater need of specific health services such as more rehab centres, well equipped hospitals or senior care facilities.

ArcView GIS query tool can be used for displaying data without breaching the privacy policy of patient records maintained by health care organisations. The Geographic information system can improvise the services by finding the gaps and loop holes in the system with proper planning. The distribution of medical experts is not equal and discrete therefore people need to travel for their treatment; so, by filling this gap with a systematic study using GIS can successfully help hospitals and government organisations to reach the objective of providing services to their people unbiased.

Business development

The applications of GIS in private sector encompass usage in marketing and business management as well as those concerned with patient care. Use of GIS software packages from Esri have enhanced Business management and marketing practices for private sector health care companies. ArcView Market Analyst offers the data and user-friendliness that make product line planning more effective by geographically connecting operational data to location data for patients and providers. Using ArcView Business Analyst, marketing campaigns and promotions can be more easily aimed at the communities that will benefit from them.

Tools for health care

GIS-based system called the Patient Location and Care Environment System (PLACES) is used by Loma Linda University Medical Center, one of the world’s premier medical research centers to locate the positions and availability of beds for each patient and to retrieve demographic and clinical information.

BodyViewer is an ArcView GIS extension which was developed by GeoHealth. It allows users to map more than 14000 of the International Classification of Diseases, it helps to analyze and visualize them. The Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes have wider applicability in the health care industry to index every known ailment, treatment, and procedure. Those ICD-9 codes are logically aggregated by BodyViewer and displayed graphically as organs and organ systems. A map can be created by user which will show the geographic occurrence of these aggregated codes. 

By scheduling and optimizing routes between patients, ArcLogistics Route improves how health services are delivered at home.



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