Integrative literature review: a review of literature related to geographical information systems, healthcare access, and health outcomes.
Differences in access to healthcare services and the resulting adverse health outcomes are major public health priorities. The Institute of Medicine and the Department of Health and Human Services have identified the need for strategies to improve access to healthcare services and to support the improvement of health outcomes. The literature documents health disparities associated with healthcare access and health outcomes from a geographic perspective. Place of residence, location of healthcare services, and geography in general are important factors in the analysis of health. Geographical information systems (GISs) are an emerging technology in the analysis of health from a geographical or location context. As a type of information technology, GISs are potentially powerful assessment tools for the investigation of healthcare access, health outcomes, and the possible resulting health disparities. Their ability to integrate health data with mapping functions allows for visualization, exploration, and modeling of health patterns. Application of GIS technology using health data can help in describing and explaining disparities in healthcare access and health outcomes. The studies reviewed demonstrated the use of GISs to investigate various aspects of healthcare access and health outcomes, including environmental variables of Lyme disease, sociodemographic variables and teen pregnancy, geographical disparities in breast cancer mortality by racial groups, PCP and AIDS prevalence, and factors of a leptospirosis disease outbreak. The literature reviewed shows effective integration and analysis of health data using GIS technology.