How can health organisations use geographic datasets to tailor the services they offer to the needs and habits of the community, asks Tracey Caldwell
Health organisations are increasingly turning to mapping to visualise and plan service provision. More than two thirds of PCTs, all ambulance trusts and 69 hospital trusts in England and Wales have registered for the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), which widens access to Ordnance Survey (OS) digital mapping products.
The agreement between the government and the OS allows public sector organisations to use centrally funded geographic datasets. Since its launch in April 2011, the PSMA has been a catalyst for collaborative working between agencies that are now able to share the freely available data.
Avon IM&T Consortium, which provides information management and technology solutions to four PCTs in South West England, has used mapping for a number of applications including a joint working initiative between NHS Bristol and Bristol City Council to improve local drug and alcohol treatment services. They were able to use PSMA data provided by both the PCT and local authority to calculate the accessibility of local treatment centres, include hospital statistics on alcohol-related admissions and analyse the current provision of services.
According to Trevor Foster, GIS and primary care team leader, the availability of OS master map large scale mapping data is also helping it to support business areas like estates planning and development, "We couldn't do that before because we just couldn't afford that data, it's very expensive. And also we now have access to data that allows us to analyse down to address level, whereas before we were limited to postcode level analysis.
"That's very important in healthcare around GP practices and how they register patients. They have contractual agreements with the primary care trusts, and they have a defined practice area. So we produce maps which act as a contract between the GP practice and the PCT."
The consortium also developed a GP profiling tool for the local cancer network using GIS. "We've now been asked to extend that to the whole of the South West region, so we're taking on three other cancer networks and providing the tool to them as well," says Foster.
In Hull, the council and the local PCT started using postcode level mapping from the PSMA to plan contraception and sexual health advice services.
Gail Teasdale, integrated services manager for children and young people's health at the council, is using mapping to reduce teenage pregnancy rates, and is planning to use the same process to tackle other health concerns around obesity and smoking.
"We started using maps to look at gaps in provision, because we had data that said we had a lot of young people getting information and advice but very few making it to contraception services," she says.
The exercise highlighted an area of the city in the west that had been overlooked because predominantly the west has low rates: "There was one particular area that was very high, but when we only had city-wide data we weren't picking that up," says Teasdale.
"It helped us decommission some things. For example, we had a clinic opposite one of our highest rate schools and attendance wasn't great. But when we talked to the young people they showed us their route to school on the maps and they never went past the clinic. Even though it was across a main road from the school, they all came from the back of the school."
Sharing the data has been key. Teasdale adds, "A lot of this work was done across a partnership, so it's not just the local authority itself, it's the local community sector, schools. By putting it on to maps, it was a way of communicating effectively where we needed to target."
This article is published by Guardian Professional. Join the Guardian healthcare network to receive regular emails on NHS innovation.
Read the complete post at http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2012/apr/12/mapping-healthcare-service-planning
Apr 12 2012, 04:47 AM
Healthcare Network | guardian.co.uk