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How The Healthcare Industry is Using GIS in 2014

By Caleb Benedict, Research Analyst, GIS and IoT

GIS technology is being used in the healthcare industry today for patient care and preventative medicine among other things. Hospitals and other organizations, with GIS and big data resources now have the ability to collect geographic information from their patients and study trends in illnesses based on where the patients live now and in the past.  By displaying this information on a map it allows healthcare workers to visually see trends in illnesses and predict which communities will most likely to be impacted in the future.  In addition, understanding where patients have traveled over time enables healthcare officials to predict where ground zero for viruses might be located and how the diseases may have been spread.

A recent GIS study conducted in China determined that the next likely at-risk region for the H7N9 avian flu virus is located in a north region of Vietnam. They were able to determine this information by mapping previous cases of the flu virus which created a cookie-crumb trail that helped them predict northern Vietnam.

GIS applications like the one in China can be used for a variety of healthcare trends. If hospitals start building databases using patient locations, they would be able to detect trends based on patient geography. This could allow hospitals to stock medical inventory based on predictive analytics, train their staff in advance of the diseases, and forecast the number of patients that will be affected.


Not only can GIS help predict future at-risk areas, but GIS applications can also help hospitals reduce expenses and improve patient care. A recent study in Maryland compared the use of life flight helicopters to ambulances. The study determined that in 31% of cases when a life flight was used, an ambulance would have been a better choice.  Knowing when an ambulance is a better choice could save a lot of money.

The use of GIS technology and big data analytics in healthcare is an emerging area worth watching. Here are some of the use cases referenced above:

A study by the University of Cincinnati uses GIS to compare the use of life flight helicopters and ambulances. (http://bit.ly/1noQnoQ)

GIS is used to study how pollution levels in different regions of the U.S. affect residents. (http://bit.ly/1jIHGoz)

A recent study in China uses GIS to predict the next impact area for the H7N9 avian flu virus. (http://bit.ly/1fU8yBI)

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Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is an opinionated Senior Analyst at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, SAP Mentor Alumnus, speaker, writer, and mobile and digital strategies expert. He is a popular keynote speaker, and in the past three years he has shared his insights into mobile and digital strategies with companies in 17 different countries. He has over 30 years of experience working with enterprise applications, and he is a veteran mobile industry executive. He wrote the Forward to SAP Press' bestselling book on enterprise mobility titled Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP, and he has written over 3,000 articles.

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