The goal of health technology is to assist in more efficient data collection, increase connectivity, and foresee market changes. A push for a more healthy lifestyle across the United States has lead to an increasing need for innovative ideas that can lead to healthy behavior changes. Even with governmental efforts, life expectancy in the United States has decreased, inequities in healthcare persist in rural communities and healthcare costs are still at an all time high. Developing partnerships between healthcare communities and business technology firms has the possibility to strengthen the development of evidence-based research and HIPAA-compliant clinical resources that can contribute to an improved population health in the United States. Using these firms can also establish more reputable platforms, health analytics, and marketing expertise that could serve beneficial to the current healthcare issues.
Implementing technology into exercise devices has lead to success stories surrounding smart technology abound. Exercise using smart technology has been shown to increase physical activity compared to traditional healthcare models. Access to healthcare is also an issue due to the US healthcare industry structure. This can be improved through the use of online applications geared towards connecting clinicians with patients. Through businesses engagement, assistance in the development of technology services that increases access to low-cost care for patients in need is possible.
Innovative inventions in data collection would assist with patients having access to their own health information. This gives them the opportunity to make informed decisions about their own health. It also reduces redundant testing resulting in patients and clinicians saving time and money. Collaborating with businesses and technology firms on healthcare issues and projects could improve population health overall.
- Stey A, Kanzaria H, Brook R. How disruptive innovation by business and technology firms could improve population health [published online August 16, 2018]. JAMA.doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10782
The CDC has created a map that shows the Rates of Adults and Adolescents living with a diagnosed HIV infection by the area of residence. This map was created in 2015 with data taken from 2013. Though there are many areas where there is no data seen, The areas with the highest rates are located in the Southeastern USA.
GIS a relatively new and is finding its way to improve health. Developing countries deal with more technological challenges to make use of GIS. But nonetheless, a very effective project with implication and impact on the local community of Ahmedabad, India is shown below. The project was impactful – was able to communicate the uneducated & also the educated mass on the issue. It went on to be heard by local policymakers too.
The above map developed by UMC in help with AMC staff shows the spatial distribution of slums and community health centers across the city.
UMC staff visited AMC’s existing UHCs and CHCs to understand their functioning and understand the requirements for upgrading facilities. UMC developed a methodology which involved meetings and interviews with health staff including medical officers, pharmacists, lab technicians, multi-purpose workers (MPW) etc. Separate SWOT analysis was conducted with medical health workers and with pharmacists, lab technicians and MPWs. UMC with assistance of AMC staff, identified slum pockets and communities on the base map of Ahmedabad and also marked existing health facilities provided by the AMC. These maps were later transferred to a GIS environment to analyze the accessibility of health facilities by slum dwellers. This assisted in locating newer health facilities as proposed under the NUHM. UMC also has prepared model layouts for the new proposed health centres for the AMC. A detailed phase-wise budget and a proposal was prepared for the AMC for submission to Government of India under the NUHM.
Source: Office of Urban Development Authority of Ahmedabad, India.
There are several factors that contribute to obesity, one of the prominent ones is walkability. With the second world countries, having more space in general, they lack the environment that promotes walkability. These countries are well equipped with parks but they lack the facility for easy commute. One of the articles below shows the influence of walkability on the obesogenic environment.
The above maps compare the number of intersections in a European city vs Los Angeles and also Irvine, CA. Irvine is a city that is lush with many parks but unfortunately, it does not help people who could commute to places through walking.
This is an eye opener for city planners as such as a challenge for them to try to reduce obesogenic environment which would fit other lifestyle choices.
Hotspot analysis is a way fo finding the geographical areas with high and also low (called the cold spots) distribution of the specific variable. The below map shows the hotspot analysis of the distribution of non- vaccination rates in Texas. It is obvious the high non-vaccination rates are around central Texas which geographically correlates with San Antonio and Austin. The cold spots are interesting that they are more around the counties bordering Mexico.
Hotspot Analysis of Unvaccinated Rates in Texas 2016
The above map was created using data from DSHS Texas based on their report on vaccination among school children. The analysis is usually done to raise the research question around the variable based on its pattern of distribution.
In this map specifically, the area of interest is the cold spots which are the counties bordering Mexico. We expect more people not getting vaccinated because of cultural and socioeconomic factors. Since it is otherwise, it gets interesting to analyze the phenomenon. One more fact to be taken into consideration is maybe the unvaccination rates can be underreported because of a high immigrant population around the counties.
GIS is a powerful tool to represent straight out facts visually. But also a tool that can be used to rise new questions. The application is particularly useful in mixed method approach of a research study.
For example, CDC produced the following data and map on the rates of HIV diagnosis among adults and adolescents.
The maps show the distribution of new HIV cases being higher in the west, the northeast and the south. It shows states of Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana, and DC are among the top five. These facts among few other obvious ones show the observatory power of maps.
The map also leads to so many research questions :
- Is there a cultural factor that influences high rates in Nevada, given it has a very indigenous cultural makeup?
- What do Alabama and Mississippi do better to control the rates, when they are the geographical adjacents to LA and GA.
- Are there specific policies in DC that help people with HIV lead a better life – policies that help them deal with the stigma.
The are few questions among many that the map brings out.
Hence GIS can be used to represent data but also can be used as a tool to form research questions in mixed method analysis.