By Drew Bush
We’re very excited to present you with our fifth episode of Geothoughts. You can also subscribe to this Podcast by finding it on iTunes.
This episode features a look at how spatial data can be used to improve access to healthcare for all Canadians. In it we talk with Scott Bell from the Department of Geography and Planning at University of Saskatchewan.
Thanks for tuning in. And we hope you subscribe with us at Geothoughts on iTunes. A transcript of this original audio podcast follows.
TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO PODCAST
This week we sit down with Professor Scott Bell from the Department of Geography and Planning at University of Saskatchewan to discuss his research using geospatial data to help create better healthcare access for all Canadians.
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Welcome to Geothoughts. I’m Drew Bush.
“From a GIS, GIScience perspective, I sort of went extreme in the access to location, or the location aspects of access. So looking at the arrangements of doctors just to get a sense of, just at the physical level, is there an equitable arrangement of doctors. And we know pretty clearly that that’s not true across Canada, at different scales and at the scale of the nation.”
To draw this conclusion, Bell brings a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) perspective to the context of a broad variety of areas of interest in human health. For example, he has collaborated on interdisciplinary health, environmental, and social science research that uses both public and private data.
“My interest in health really has broadened areas of interest to look at access to a variety of things that effect our health.”
This year alone he has worked with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Dentistry and also examined the accessibility of Canadian food in terms of finding healthy eating options. But collecting such data can sometimes be onerous work owing to the fact that different provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons have varying standards for their data, he must collect population data from Statistics Canada for comparison, and sometimes he might even collect his own data using surveys to gain insight.
“So we integrate data across a variety of sources, mostly publicly available not always in the sort of true and honest definition of open data…We collect our own sometimes using telephone surveys of people to get an idea of what’s controlling or what’s affecting their access to healthcare.”
What’s important is figuring out what particular issues might impact how people access doctors. These include aspects of a given doctor’s services, such as the number of patients they take, or the personal concerns of the consumer or patient.
“We as just members of the public when we look for a doctor, access can be affected by our own personal opinions, or beliefs, or worldviews, or preferences. So if I prefer to be seen by a male doctor and my neighborhood is filled with female doctors, a physical measure of access might show that there are lots of doctors near me and I should have great accessibility. But I’m not willing to see any of those doctors.”
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If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.