Technology is at the heart of considerable change in the medical field. A new pioneering technical field has emerged in the healthcare industry called Geomedicine, a field that employs Graphic Information System (GIS) technology to inform patient care. Researchers have determined that if GIS can inform scientists about the health of the planet, it might also have some interesting insights for monitoring the health of an individual person—which could collectively benefit us all.
The Impact of Environment on Health
There may be just few pristine places left on the planet where tiny pockets of Eden exist and where the water is drinkable without a filtration plant and where the air is free of harmful pollutants. Most people, however, reside in environments laced with contaminants. Since the Industrial Age, our planet has witnessed the emissions of steel mills, pesticide run-off, and car exhaust to name a few major pollutants. Most regions have a specific set of contaminants that affect the environment, but also the health of its people. Studies involving the links of these contaminants to serious health risks are plentiful, and the pool of research that links pollution and health is simply hard to ignore.
The Puzzle of Health
Geomedicine can be a powerful tool for physicians. It can be difficult to puzzle together a picture of an individual’s health and risk factors based on a couple of office visits. Once a geomedical profile is in place, however, doctors can tap into the data for additional information that is likely to influence a person’s overall health make-up based on specific environmental factors. Just as genetics plays a major role in the health of a person, the environment also affects people’s health in ways that are still being researched. Any background information GIS can provide could potentially inform healthcare providers about what to look for when a person has a medical complaint and what, of course, they may be at risk for. Knowing the health risks they face could lead patients to explore preventive measures to reduce these risks.
Geomedicine and Bumpy Terrain
As the field of geomedicine is still quite young, it has some obstacles in its path. For instance, many doctors are untrained about how to go about tapping into this wealth of data or even setting aside the time to traverse the studies and statistics that are linked to a person’s address. They are far more willing to base their care on a blood test than to pore over a slew of environmental markers that may or may not involve a patient at hand. Moreover, a full geomedical profile would have to involve all of that person’s addresses as each site plays a role in their overall health makeup. This could effectively triple the size of medical histories and charts.
The Road Ahead
Yet, consider the simple doctor-patient interview and its typical questions: “Do you smoke?” or “Do you drink?” Isn’t it conceivable that living a half mile from an industrial mill would influence the person’s health in the same way that living with a smoker for half their life might? In the hands of a well-trained doctor who becomes familiar with the studies of their own environments, this data could be channeled when needed and certainly checked when a course of treatment or diagnosis for a patient is unclear. As a compelling new medical field, there will be more advances associated with geomedicine. For now, it’s something that patients themselves may want to broach with their doctor in order to paint themselves an accurate and comprehensive picture of their health and risk factors for illness and disease.