GIS technology at the heart of new medical study
By Alicia Kouparitsas01 Aug 2012
Some of Australia’s leading cardiologists have enlisted cutting-edge mapping technology in the war against Australia’s biggest killer – heart disease.
Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology from location intelligence experts Esri Australia, a national team of researchers have just concluded a comprehensive seven-year study into access to cardiac services before and after cardiac events.
QUT Associate Professor Robyn Clark, who headed up the study, is set to discuss its results during her keynote address at Ozri 2012 - the Asia Pacific region’s leading GIS technology event.
Associate Professor Clark said measuring access to cardiac care through a “geographic lens” helped identify a significant gap between regional and metropolitan access to cardiac care.
“We looked at the distance to cardiac treatment centre locations in all of Australia’s 20,000 population centres,” Associate Professor Clark said.
“By mapping the huge amounts of statistical data we collected with GIS technology we were able to identify critical patterns and relationships that would not have been so apparent in table form.
“More specifically, we were able to identify locations and groups of people with limited access to cardiac services.
“For example, we found that only 40 per cent of indigenous people reside within an hour of appropriate cardiac medical facilities and cardiac rehabilitation services, while 12 per cent of indigenous Australians live three or more hours from any kind of hospital.”
“The model established by this study can be applied to a whole range of other acute and chronic conditions in areas such as mental health, midwifery, cancer treatment or burns services,” Mr Purkiss said.
“Medical information has limited use unless it is combined with knowledge of the environmental factors associated with patients, locations and conditions.
“A health system underpinned with GIS technology will ultimately see us all benefit from a more precise understanding of the links between our health and where we reside, work and play.”
The study’s results were also used to create a cardiac health index, which ranks geographic areas according to fatal heart attack risk.
“The Cardiac Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia is a simple ranking system that helps governments and local communities prioritise locations in terms of risk,” Associate Professor Clark said.
“Because the index is backed by reputable research, community members and medical bodies have greater leverage to lobby governments for improved cardiac care where it is needed most.
“It is also a valuable tool for governments when deciding how best to distribute health care infrastructure efficiently and cost-effectively.”
Associate Professor Robyn Clark will present the study findings to over 500 of Australia’s leading GIS professionals at Ozri 2012.