The dynamics of health and health care provision in the United States vary substantially across regions, and there is substantial regional heterogeneity in population density, age distribution, disease prevalence, race and ethnicity, poverty and the ability to access care. Geocoding and geographic information systems (GIS) are important tools to link patient or population location to information regarding these characteristics. In this review, we provide an overview of basic GIS concepts and provide examples to illustrate how GIS techniques have been applied to the study of kidney disease, and in particular to understanding the interplay between race, poverty, rural residence and the planning of renal services for this population. The interplay of socioeconomic status and renal disease outcomes remains an important area for investigation and recent publications have explored this relationship utilizing GIS techniques to incorporate measures of socioeconomic status and racial composition of neighborhoods. In addition, there are many potential challenges in providing care to rural patients with chronic kidney disease including long travel times and sparse renal services such as transplant and dialysis centers. Geospatially fluent analytic approaches can also inform system level analyses of health care systems and these approaches can be applied to identify an optimal distribution of dialysis facilities. GIS analysis could help untangle the complex interplay between geography, socioeconomic status, and racial disparities in chronic kidney disease, and could inform policy decisions and resource allocation as the population ages and the prevalence of renal disease increases.