AMA Launches Enhanced Mapping Tool that Identifies Underserved Areas

The American Medical Association (AMA) has just released an enhanced version of its free geospatial mapping tool that can help identify gaps in patient access to health care.

First launched in 2014, Health Workforce Mapper shows the availability of different types of health care professionals at the state, county, and metropolitan area levels. It also allows the user to map the location of health care infrastructure like hospitals and rural health clinics.

Last week the AMA added population health data to the tool, which is available free of charge on the AMA website.

“Improving patient access to quality care is a core mission of the AMA, and this mapping tool will show physicians and healthcare professionals precisely where their skills can most benefit populations in need,” said AMA president Andrew Gurman, MD. “Knowing where healthcare services are needed most can help providers make the best decisions on where to locate or expand their practices to reach patients in greatest need of access to care.”

While the enhanced version of Health Workforce Mapper has broad applicability for the medical community, its potential to inform telehealth program planning is intriguing.

Telehealth is arguably needed most by people living in areas where health care resources – primary care physicians, psychiatrists and other specialists, clinics, and hospitals – are in short supply. Telehealth can improve access to health care for people living in these so-called “health care deserts.”

The enhanced Health Workforce Mapper can help researchers, health systems, insurers, policymakers, health care practitioners, telehealth companies, and others identify priority areas for telehealth expansion. It also provides other information potentially useful for telehealth program planning.

The new “Population Health Explorer” feature includes data on health care access and quality as measured by primary care physician availability, emergency department visits, hospital readmissions, and health insurance coverage.

It also has state and county-level data on morbidity, such as the prevalence of diabetes, obesity, low birthweight, and other conditions, and on mortality, such as the rate of death from stroke, suicide, heart disease, and other causes.

Population Health Explorer allows the user to examine a geographic area’s demographics and look at health behaviors like smoking, alcohol use, and physical inactivity.

The enhanced tool also has information on social environment factors that affect population health, like the prevalence of poverty, disability, unemployment, non-English speakers, limited education, and inadequate social/emotional support.

While access to Health Workforce Mapper is free, AMA members can view a fuller version of the tool that includes the capacity to export a customizable Excel file that ranks health workforce and demographic data by county.

The AMA developed the enhanced tool in collaboration with the American Academy of Family Physicians Robert Graham Center and HealthLandscape, a geospatial analysis company.

Click here to see the AMA press release about the enhanced version of Health Workforce Mapper.

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