Using geographical information systems and cartograms as a health service quality improvement tool.

North West London
Published Date: 1 Jul 2014


Disease prevalence can be spatially analysed to provide support for service implementation and health care planning, these analyses often display geographic variation. A key challenge is to communicate these results to decision makers, with variable levels of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) knowledge, in a way that represents the data and allows for comprehension. The present research describes the combination of established GIS methods and software tools to produce a novel technique of visualising disease admissions and to help prevent misinterpretation of data and less optimal decision making. The aim of this paper is to provide a tool that supports the ability of decision makers and service teams within health care settings to develop services more efficiently and better cater to the population; this tool has the advantage of information on the position of populations, the size of populations and the severity of disease.


A standard choropleth of the study region, London, is used to visualise total emergency admission values for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and bronchiectasis using ESRI's ArcGIS software. Population estimates of the Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) are then used with the ScapeToad cartogram software tool, with the aim of visualising geography at uniform population density. An interpolation surface, in this case ArcGIS' spline tool, allows the creation of a smooth surface over the LSOA centroids for admission values on both standard and cartogram geographies. The final product of this research is the novel Cartogram Interpolation Surface (CartIS).


The method provides a series of outputs culminating in the CartIS, applying an interpolation surface to a uniform population density. The cartogram effectively equalises the population density to remove visual bias from areas with a smaller population, while maintaining contiguous borders. CartIS decreases the number of extreme positive values not present in the underlying data as can be found in interpolation surfaces.

Derryn A. Lovett