In San Diego County, California, the people at Scripps face this very situation.
Scripps is a not-for-profit hospital and physician network that provides healthcare services in San Diego County through six hospitals, two skilled nursing facilities and about 2,400 affiliated physicians.
In order for Scripps to retain a competitive edge, its managers must know who their patients are, what their health needs are, and of course, where they are.About a year ago, Scripps began to address this problem with Avenir, a GIS system designed for the healthcare industry.
Avenir is a Windows 95-based healthcare planning and marketing product that is designed to import medical databases such as hospital discharges and Healthdemographics custom datasets called HealthPacs, explains Carl Li, Marketing director for Healthdemographics of San Diego, which produces Avenir.HealthPacs contain demographic and healthcare utilization information for specific markets.
The imported patient data enables Avenir users to identify areas where incidents of specific conditions such as diabetes are higher than in others.It can also identify communities with a growing number of births, areas where the need for women's services is increasing, or it can illustrate where a high concentration of geriatric patients live.Results can be presented in report form or in map form using a bundled version of MapInfo 4.5.
"We use this product to plan the project utilization of healthcare services," explains Ron Whiting, senior director of health system development at Scripps."We can look at the results by using the bundled MapInfo.It is an enormous help to look at the results geographically."
At Scripps, Whiting uses actual discharge data from area hospitals.This data is cross tabulated with the type of medical treatment that the patients received.For example, when Scripps examines data from women who recently gave birth, it reviews where the new mothers live and which hospitals they chose.This data gives Scripps a sense of how far people are willing to travel for obstetrics services.Ultimately, this information it enables Scripps to plan and position its facilities so they are as accessible to their patients as possible.
"We are trying to do population-based planning.We want to know what services people need and where we need to place those services," Whiting notes.Population-based healthcare planning works in the real world.The old philosophy of "build it and they will come" may be well suited to Hollywood movies but not to today's demanding, competitive healthcare market.