While GIS can be a valuable asset on its own, when paired with other forms of gathering information, it can truly be a limitless form of data collection, analysis and presentation. In 2011, the Preston Medical library in Tennessee used a combination of U.S. census data and GIS programs to better help their customers through an outreach program called Consumer and Patient Health Information Service, or CAPHIS.
Because more medical risks have been associated with lower literacy rates, the library's goal was to provide CAPHIS customers with information that they could understand. The program would work as follows, when customers or patients would call the library seeking medical information, the library would then use Microsoft Access to locate the caller using a query by zip code then use the data from the census and GIS programs to examine the literacy rates of the location of the caller. These literacy rates are then used to determine the estimated socioeconomic status of that person. After doing this, the library would be able to provide the consumer with medical advice and information at a literacy rate that is determined by their estimated socioeconomic status.
The benefits of having this combination of GIS and census information are numerous. One key piece of information that was gathered from this methodology was a new idea of which diseases and medical conditions are prevalent in certain counties. Another bonus to using this system was that all of the information was able to be placed on a map. Maps were created to display how many calls took place per 100,000 people and also the rate of ambulatory disabilities per 100,000 people.
All of this information could have been gathered by recording the numbers presented above. However, by using GIS, the spread of disease, callers, and their proximity to under-served areas are easier to grasp and understand. GIS helps to paint a picture of a large, complex amount of information and present it in a streamlined and manageable format.
Socha Y.M, Oelschlegel, S, Vaught, C.J, & Earl M. (2012). Improving an outreach service by analyzing the relationship of health information disparities to socioeconomic indicators using geographic information systems. JMed Lib Assoc 100(3). https://lms.southwestern.edu/file.php/4373/Literature/Socha-2012-HealthOutreach.pdf