By Steven Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare | October 25, 2018

The American Medical Association updated its mapping tool to better flag medically underserved areas and the social determinants affecting patients’ health.

The nation’s leading physician organization on Thursday unveiled an enhanced version of its Healthcare Workforce Mapper, an initiative that the group originally launched in 2014 in collaboration with the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Robert Graham Center and Health Landscape to easily find a physician in each state.

But this latest iteration aims to be more of a resource for healthcare providers to manage the health of their patient populations. Updated population health data has been added that allows providers to track social factors such as rates of smoking and obesity by geographic location. The tool also allows users to view the relationship between seemingly unrelated indicators, such as an area’s the air pollution level and uninsured rate.

The use of data to manage patient populations has grown in demand as payment models shift away from fee-for-service to value-based care. Improving upon patient care in these models increasingly depends on addressing what role issues such as transportation, housing and food security play in determining health outcomes.

“With the updated mapping tool, physicians and health care professionals will be able to more precisely and easily pinpoint the areas and populations which could benefit most from their skills and services,” AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny said in a released statement. “Providers can use this information to help them determine where to locate or expand their practices to reach patients in greatest need of access to care.”

The AMA said the tool could help policymakers by providing evidence to aid decisions regarding workforce expansion. It would also help practices better understand patient access needs and demands for service in communities.

“If you want to do strategic business planning, there is an inherent need to understand patient access needs and demands for services in the community no matter how those patients’ health care is financed,” the organization stated, “and how to anticipate what new services and/or service lines ought to be developed or emphasized based on those expected demands and changes in patient demographics.”

Original Article