GPS YOUR HEALTH
Today’s medicine is about pills and potions but tomorrow’s diagnosis will consider geographic data about where you live and work.
Geomedicine captures the ‘place’ (environment) a person inhabits – where they live, work or play – and links this to their medical information to build up a more accurate picture of a person’s current and future health. For instance, living next to a chemical plant is likely to increase the risk of certain types of cancer, while working in a big city might exacerbate asthma or living in the countryside might promote hay fever. By using geospatial technology to link public health knowledge with personal medicine in this way, healthcare professionals have access to more signifi cant data on which to base a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
So a person’s address could become a simple diagnostic tool. Geospatial technology would allow a person’s electronic health records to include a place history, thereby enabling doctors to tell from an address what a person’s risk factors are. Up to 30% of our health issues are related to our environment, so data on this is of huge importance.
But how often does your doctor ask where you’ve lived? Today, geospatial information systems are used in all state health departments in the USA for tracking disease, geographic variability in healthcare costs, quality and outcomes. But we have been slow to connect the individual levels of data that people have spent their lifetimes collecting.
Most pharma organisations currently underutilise geospatial technology and – despite some having used it to help them access delivery patterns and routes, track sites used in clinical trials, and for other marketing, research, logistical and strategic planning purposes – many fi rms don’t possess the unique set of analytical skills required to use it properly.
Yet it has the potential to give pharma greater insights into markets, processes and healthcare opportunities. Adding precise information about where the activity, event, disease, or demographic exists in a geographic setting means many other factors can be re-assembled to provide new information, such as risk factors and potential undiagnosed populations. Importantly, it also aff ords the opportunity to predict areas where drugs will be needed in an outbreak.
Governments will increasingly look at environmental issues and changing population demographics when planning healthcare reforms so the micro markets in which we live and work will need to become more critical to pharma’s new business strategies. e wide variability of costs, quality and outcomes across various global healthcare systems will also drive this shift towards understanding the importance of where a person lives and the bearing this has on healthcare.
Partnerships will become more important as pressure on pharma companies to deliver coordination of care builds up. Companies that use geospatial technology to help deliver the right care, at the right place and at the right time will have the greatest chance of winning in the marketplace. This article is based on an interview with Bill Davenhall, senior health advisor at US-based geographic information systems fi rm Esri.
This article is based on an interview with Bill Davenhall, senior health advisor at US-based
geographic information systems fi rm Esri.