Incorporating geospatial capacity within clinical data systems to address social determinants of health

Public Health Rep. 2011 Sep-Oct;126 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):54-61. doi: 10.1177/00333549111260S310.


Linking electronic health record (EHR) systems with community information systems (CIS) holds great promise for addressing inequities in social determinants of health (SDH). While EHRs are rich in location-specific data that allow us to uncover geographic inequities in health outcomes, CIS are rich in data that allow us to describe community-level characteristics relating to health. When meaningfully integrated, these data systems enable clinicians, researchers, and public health professionals to actively address the social etiologies of health disparities.This article describes a process for exploring SDH by geocoding and integrating EHR data with a comprehensive CIS covering a large metropolitan area. Because the systems were initially designed for different purposes and had different teams of experts involved in their development, integrating them presents challenges that require multidisciplinary expertise in informatics, geography, public health, and medicine. We identify these challenges and the means of addressing them and discuss the significance of the project as a model for similar projects.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods
  • Geographic Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Information Systems / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration
  • Public Health*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors