Health organisations of all kinds are increasingly turning to GIS mapping software and cartographic representation. Maps are a powerful tool for visualising datasets, whether it is patient, customer or service data. They are also a great way to effectively communicate health issues and trends, such as the geographic distribution of risk or emerging hotspots. Much health-related data has a spatial element, which can be as simple as an address or postcode. More and more healthcare and mapping datasets are now in the public domain, and these can often be used together with an organisation”s own data. You just need to choose the right mapping technique and delivery platform to convey the information to your audience.
This article gives just a few examples of how different organisations within the healthcare sector were able to improve communication through mapping. They show that maps are a useful way to show information in many situations. The audience for the mapping could be the public, customers, partners or for internal use. The aim of the maps could be to help with a key decision, inform a strategy, promote a service, raise awareness of a health issue, or many other goals.
The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is a medical charity that provides advice and support to those affected by lung conditions, and campaigns to raise awareness of conditions such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). BLF are using maps as a key tool to improve understanding of OSA and to target their campaigning activities. They commissioned a series of maps to estimate the prevalence of OSA in UK health areas and parliamentary constituencies. The maps compare this to the locations of sleep services. This ground-breaking exercise used mostly public data, and was delivered in easy-to-use PDF and spreadsheet formats. A BLF spokesperson commented that the mapping work “”will be used to plan many aspects of our campaign, to raise awareness of OSA and to improve the lives of people living with this serious condition.
Another example of how to improve communication through mapping visualisation can be seen in the case of a respected NHS Foundation Trust seeking to highlight a pattern of increasing patient reach. The Trust”s Senior Communications Manager has access to useful spatial data in the form of patient postcodes by year of attendance. This data was believed to show a trend of increasing patient reach but needed mapping in order to confirm and communicate this trend. The resultant series of maps showed the changing location of the hospital”s patients over time, confirming the pattern of increasing geographic reach. The maps effectively communicated this to patients and stakeholders across the Trust.