Background: Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) superimpose data on geographical maps to provide visual representations of data by region. Few studies have used GIS data to investigate if telemedicine services are preferentially provided to communities of greatest need. Introduction: This study compared the healthcare needs of communities with and without telemedicine services from a university-based telemedicine program. Methods: Originating sites for all telemedicine consultations between July 1996 and December 2013 were geocoded using ArcGIS software. ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) were extracted from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing file and assigned a community needs index (CNI) score to reflect the ZCTA community's healthcare needs based on evidence-based barriers to healthcare access. CNI scores were compared across communities with and without active telemedicine services. Results: One hundred ninety-four originating telemedicine clinic sites in California were evaluated. The mean CNI score for ZCTAs with at least one telemedicine clinic was significantly higher (3.32 ± 0.84) than those without a telemedicine site (2.95 ± 0.99) and higher than the mean ZCTAs for all of California (2.99 ± 1.01). Of the 194 telemedicine clinics, 71.4% were located in communities with above average need and 33.2% were located in communities with very high needs. Discussion: Originating sites receiving telemedicine services from a university-based telemedicine program were located in regions with significantly higher community healthcare needs. Leveraging a geospatial information system to understand community healthcare needs provides an opportunity for payers, hospitals, and patients to be strategic in the allocation of telemedicine services.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics
- Health Information Management