CliFin: A Web-Based Geographical Information System for Time Dependant Point of Care Localization in New Brunswick, Canada

CliFin: A Web-Based Geographical Information System for Time Dependant Point of Care Localization in New Brunswick, Canada

Dan Tulpan (Information and Communication Technologies, National Research Council Canada, Moncton, NB, Canada, & Department of Biology, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB, Canada), Michelina Mancuso (New Brunswick Health Council, Moncton, NB, Canada), Guillaume Durand (Information and Communication Technologies, National Research Council Canada, Moncton, NB, Canada, & Department of Computer Science, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB, Canada), Chaouki Regoui (Information and Communication Technologies, National Research Council Canada, Moncton, NB, Canada) and Luc Belliveau (Information and Communication Technologies, National Research Council Canada, Moncton, NB, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jhisi.2012100103
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Over the past decade, the development of web-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for health has grown quite rapidly due to an increased need of data integration and spatial visualization. One GIS growth area in health is the construction of map-based applications that provide information on health care resources. Such applications are typically used as standard tools by public health departments, public health policy and research organizations, hospitals and health insurance organizations to provide public access to health care resources. This paper presents the design and development process of Clinic Finder (CliFin) - an open-access web-based GIS application relying on the Google Maps technology and providing access to a database with point of care facilities across the Province of New Brunswick, Canada. The uniqueness of CliFin consists in the implementation of a time-frame dependent search and results trimming approach, which allows users to identify clinics and hospitals open at any given time. The users are also encouraged to contribute with schedule updates and new point of care information to further develop CliFin’s database and its accuracy. The combination of GIS visualization capabilities, database management, user involvement in database update and the time-frame dependence of search results, confers CliFin increased practicality, especially in situations of crisis such as natural disasters.
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Introduction And Background

With the advent and continuous enhancements of information technologies, public health and health care have witnessed major transformations within the past two decades. Information technology applications facilitate the transition from paper-based file systems to electronic records and Internet-based services. Such applications have changed dramatically and continue to change health care systems (Mesgari & Masoomi, 2008), health services and our understanding of health needs (Ricketts, 2003).

The simultaneous evolution of information technology, health care and medical knowledge, coupled with the identification of spatial and environmental factors as potentiators in health, motivated the development and improvement of geographic information systems.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is generically defined as a map-based technology designed to capture, store, manage, integrate, analyze and display various types of geospatial information (Riner, Cunningham, & Johnson, 2004; Nykiforuk & Flaman, 2008). While the organization of data within GIS resembles the one specific to relational databases, the difference resides in the existence (and necessity) of geographical coordinates associated to each data point. The use of geospatial attributes allows a GIS application to integrate location-dependant information originating from multiple data sources such as economical, environmental, health, social or medical.

GIS software solutions implement functions and tools designed to generate, modify, manipulate and analyze various forms of geospatial information. From a functional perspective, Buhmann and Wiesel (2004) distinguish eight GIS software categories highlighted in Table 1, to which we add two more categories for navigation and military applications.

Table 1.
GIS software categories. A list of 10 categories for GIS software. The first 8 categories were presented in Buhmann and Wiesel (2004)
1General purpose GISEnterprise GIS software with full-featured functionality.GeoMedia Professional (Intergraph), Google Maps API (Google Inc.), Microsoft Bing Maps (Microsoft)
2Internet GISGIS applications accessible via Internet connectivity.Autodesk MapGuide (Autodesk), ESRI ArcIMS (ESRI), MapInfo MapXtreme (Pitney Bowes Software)
3Desktop GISLow-functionality GIS applications running independently on desktop computers without access to database servers.ESRI ArcGIS for Desktop (ESRI), MapInfo Professional (Pitney Bowes Software), SICAD Spatial Desktop (MapBender)
4CAD GISGIS software with main focus on engineering design (drawing, constructions) and less functionality for data management, spatial analysis, cartography, data sharing and integration.Autodesk AutoCAD Map 3D (Autodesk), TerraCADdy GIS (CADdy Geomatics GmbH)
5Business mappingGIS software with focus on managing business assets, clients, sales, delivery routes and inventory that require access and interaction with a map.Microsoft MapPoint (Microsoft), EasyMap 2 (microOLAP)
6GIS complementsGIS software that complements existing applications by extending their capabilities to manipulate and simulate data or to improve other functionalities.ENVI plugin (Exelis), Microsoft IDL (Microsoft), SoundPlan (SoundPLAN International LLC)
7Mobile GISGIS software for data acquisition and manipulation on a handheld or another mobile device.ESRI ArcPad (ESRI), StarPal HGIS (StarPal), Mapinfo MapXtend (CMC Government Supply)
8Free and open source GIS (FOSS)Publicly available free and open source GIS software.GRASS GIS (U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories), MapServer, GeoServer, ESRI Geoportal Server (ESRI)
9Military GISGIS support for military applications such as cartography, intelligence, battle field management, terrain analysis, remote sensing, military installation management and monitoring of possible terrorist activity.ArcGIS Military Analyst (ESRI)
10Navigation GISGIS support for air, land and water navigation systems.ECDIS (Danelec Marine), ENC Direct (NOAA)

Based on their particular features, GIS applications become widely adopted and recognized as effective means to provide access to geospatial information and to perform complex analyses in many domains such as public health, health promotion and medicine (Cromley, 2003; Cromley & McLafferty, 2002).

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