HIMSS 2017: Geospatial analytics help population health efforts at Loma Linda, Children’s National

ORLANDO, Fla.—Two health systems on opposite sides of the country are incorporating geospatial analytics and environmental factors into existing patient data to create targeted population health initiatives.

During a session at HIMSS 2017 in Orlando, leaders at Children’s National Health System and Loma Linda University Medical Center explained how they use location-based analytics along with social and behavioral data to refine community outreach efforts and boost patient engagement through localized, disease-specific patient resources.

Brian Jacobs, M.D., vice president and chief medical information officer and chief information officer at Children’s National Health System in the District of Columbia and a professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, explained how Children’s uses environmental data tied to socioeconomics, nutrition and housing to geographically visualize disease variations and roll out localized efforts targeting specific conditions.

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For example, the system reduced the number of scalding and contact burns in children ages 0-2 by using geospatial analytics to highlight neighborhoods where the injuries were occurring and notifying parents to decrease the temperature on water heaters. Before the initiative, scalds and contact burns made up 93% of burn injuries presented in the system's ED. After identifying the location those injuries were coming from, the number of burns “came down like a rocket,” Jacobs said.

The system applied the same approach to sickle cell patients by providing physicians information on each patient’s risk of readmission based on where they lived, and made surprising discoveries about the relationship between fast food restaurants and childhood obesity.  

“We debunked some commonly held myths in Washington, D.C., and around the country that obesity is linked to McDonalds or Burger King or Wendy’s,” Jacobs said.Mark Zirkelbach

In California, Mark Zirkelbach (pictured right), CIO at Loma Linda University Medical Center located outside of San Bernardino, California, said the hospital now views location as the "seventh vital sign."

  Over the last several years, the hospital developed personalized “wellness maps” for each patient depending on their condition. The map, which is integrated with the system’s EHR and patient portal, contains specific community resources such as nearby clinics, drugstores, bus transportation routes and even places to exercise or purchase nutritious food.  

The hospital found that that level of personalization was critical to patient engagement. The map is continually updated as businesses change locations and as each patient’s diagnosis changes.

“A diabetic would see a very different set of resources her than someone with COPD,” Zirkelbach said. “We make sure resources are relevant to that person’s situation.”

He added that although the wellness maps are in the early implementation stages, the system plans use them to better understand the population it is treating and to account for social and location-based factors when making decisions about capital investments.