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The Three G’s of Mapping….Is Healthcare a Leader?

Ok, it’s true. I’m a closet geek. I think no one knows how much I love maps. (Lesli Adams, my colleague at Perficient, often describes herself as a geek so this is homage to her). There are so many different kinds of maps, so which ones do I favor, you ask? I think the best maps are the three “G’s”,

  1. geospatial,
  2. genomic and
  3. geocaching.

Let me show you how all of these have relevance to healthcare:

Let’s start with geospatial.

shutterstock_56289301I am fascinated by the heat maps of disease prevalence, patient engagement and demographics that have started to electrify Healthcare. Duane Schafer, Director of Microsoft Business Intelligence for Perficient, recently revealed a great demo at HIMSS, based on Population Health statistics from ProHealth in Wisconsin. Using basic tools from the Microsoft stack, Duane was able to visually map important population health statistics from ProHealth and present that data in a way that entices the viewer to explore deeper. It allows the organization to see, at a glance, major population demographics in their region. This can then be combined with additional analytics to determine trending of disease in the area, frequencies of patient visits to the Emergency Departments over time and correlations of missed appointments to care gaps in specific chronic disease management. Geospatial mapping even hit the news recently when a contamination at Lake Champlain caused concern about the risk of spreading disease and therefore assisted with facilitating a rapid Public Health response in this situation. Of course, there are many more examples but you get the idea.

Secondly, genomic mapping

Genomic mapping and personalized medicine have emerged at the forefront of cutting edge research and treatment. Pharmacogenomics have been utilized for targeted cancer treatments, anticoagulation treatment choice and diabetes management already. In a February 28, 2014 article in BMC Medicine, “Personalized medicine: risk prediction, targeted therapies and mobile health technology“, several forum contributors wrote about new and exciting potential uses for genomics and personalized medicine in stroke prevention and treatment, oncology and mobile health. One particular passage summed up the future use in medicine quite well:

My second vision for the future is the next-generation sequencing approach. This is the future of oncology, and we are really looking forward to that. The third area for the future of personalized oncology, I think, is not so much a scientific revolution as it is a sociologic revolution, and that is the issue of being able to look at so-called ‘big data’. With the advent of the use of electronic medical records in many medical practices around the US, we are going to have the ability to potentially review millions of patients’ outcomes in the future and apply the lessons we have learned from previous retrospective analyses of how patients do when they are treated in various ways.”

This encourages me to think that eventually information, genomics and individualization WILL combine to vastly improve our ability to provide healthcare for each unique individual. So IBM’s Watson or the Oracle Health Sciences Translational Research Center could help provide the backbone.

Finally there is geocaching.

What could geocaching have to do with healthcare, you ask? I believe it adds the final piece to the puzzle. Geocaching could be used for gamification in healthcare, as described by Perficient’s Martin Sizemore and Melody Smith Jones, allowing patients to do a virtual Healthcare “cache” and collect badges when they complete their prescribed exercise or educational lessons suggested by their provider. Better still, geocaching could be used as the exercise component of a wellness program managed by a Healthcare provider, system or health plan. Not only would it exercise the body, but it would also challenge the mind.

So is Healthcare a leader or a follower when it comes to mapping? I’m curious to know your thoughts so tweet me @DrMarcieSC.

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