Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to understand a community's primary care needs

J Am Board Fam Med. Jan-Feb 2010;23(1):13-21. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2010.01.090135.


Introduction: A key element for reducing health care costs and improving community health is increased access to primary care and preventative health services. Geographic information systems (GIS) have the potential to assess patterns of health care utilization and community-level attributes to identify geographic regions most in need of primary care access.

Methods: GIS, analytical hierarchy process, and multiattribute assessment and evaluation techniques were used to examine attributes describing primary care need and identify areas that would benefit from increased access to primary care services. Attributes were identified by a collaborative partnership working within a practice-based research network using tenets of community-based participatory research. Maps were created based on socioeconomic status, population density, insurance status, and emergency department and primary care safety-net utilization.

Results: Individual and composite maps identified areas in our community with the greatest need for increased access to primary care services.

Conclusions: Applying GIS to commonly available community- and patient-level data can rapidly identify areas most in need of increased access to primary care services. We have termed this a Multiple Attribute Primary Care Targeting Strategy. This model can be used to plan health services delivery as well as to target and evaluate interventions designed to improve health care access.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Services / supply & distribution
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Health Planning Guidelines
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Population Density
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Software
  • United States
  • Utilization Review