Data Toolkit: Presenting Data Via GIS Mapping

An Introduction to GIS Mapping

The information in this section is adapted from workshops that Ann Peton of Peton Consulting has done for NOSORH. In Part Two of this Toolkit we provided you with some ideas about how to present data once it is downloaded from the BRFSS website, including simple tables and bar graphs.  Here, we will examine GIS mapping as a healthcare data presentation tool. 

Mapping turns data into information through visioning and technology so that healthcare needs and issues can be more effectively realized and solutions found (see example below).


Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system of hardware, software, and procedures designed to support the capture, management, manipulation, analysis, modeling, and display of spatially referenced data for solving complex planning and management problems.  In more simple terms, it is a system which uses data and technology to visualize places relative to each other.

Goals for healthcare mapping include the following:

  • Data analysis – Enhances the ability to more effectively identify gaps in healthcare services 
  • Support strategic planning – Program expansion or creation depends on knowing where the people and supporting facilities are located (e.g. expanding respiratory services to support increases of aging “baby boomers” )
  • Recruitment/retention – What are the income levels, demographics, and location of other physicians, hospitals, schools, etc. that might attract/retain professionals
  • Provide a base of information – To support research, grant writing and analysis 
  • Share information/outcomes with others visually ─ Sharing the good work being done through the organization such as advocacy support, marketing of services, etc.
  • Help to facilitate the dialogue – Within the organization and with members over the internet on issues such as advocacy, membership, educational services, etc.
  • Provide a framework –For other data that is being collected within the organization or by other partners


National Data That Can Be Integrated with YOUR Data for Mapping

  • 2000 Census – Income, race, age, household/family data
  • Population Projections (dependent upon state data resources)
  • 2004 Estimated Percent in Poverty by County (see Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) information given in Part Two of this Toolkit underCurrent Population Survey and
  • Administrative – Cities, Zip Codes, Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCA), transportation routes
  • Medically Underserved Areas
  • Shortage Area Designations - Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) and Physician Scarcity Areas (PSA)
  • Political – Congressional and state legislative districts
  • Health data – Federally funded healthcare facilities such as Rural Health Clinics, Community Health Centers (see,  Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Transportation corridors


Potential SORH Healthcare Mapping Applications

  • Mapping the locations of healthcare workforce relative to healthcare facilities, demographics, population projections, etc. ( see example below)


  • Visualizing the economic impact of changes in healthcare services – potential closures and/or the adding of services
  • Visualizing current status in comparison to the effect of proposed changes (see example below)



  • Recruiting/retaining workforce within surrounding community for various health related support services and other considerations (telemedicine, education opportunities, recreation, transportation, etc.)
  • Visualizing potential workforce considering education levels and access to either schools or distance learning
  • Making home health services and mobilization of certain services (MRI, mammography, etc.) more efficient through route determination
  • Coordinating emergency response for communities
  • Analyzing distance to services (see example below)


  • Mapping State Rural Health Association members and providing a spreadsheet of members by state legislative district
  • Mapping and analysis of data for organizations preparing a grant application or proposal for rural healthcare services/network development
  • Mapping hospital service areas and integrating demographic, socio-economic, and patient services (see example below)


Data and Information Sources to Support Healthcare Mapping (Spatial and Non-Spatial)


  • Regional Planning Commissions (NADO)
  • County Assessors
  • County Health Departments
  • Kids Count


Community Information Resource Center (CIRC)

CIRC Website:

The Rural Policy Research Institute’s (RUPRI) Community Information Resource Center (CIRC) mission is to link public information and spatial dynamics for timely policy decision-support through interactive visualization and spatial analysis. While CIRC primarily serves governments, non-profit organizations and other intermediaries, its broader goal is to integrate Internet accessibility with emerging computer technologies including geographic information systems, and data visualization, to assist underserved, under-resourced, and special needs communities, organizations and populations in making more informed decisions.