Healthcare Data Analytics Vendors: The Difference Between “Having Esri” & Actually Using GIS

Healthcare Data Analytics Vendors: The Difference Between “Having Esri” & Actually Using GIS

Since its inception, Stratasan has been at the forefront of using mapping technology with the many forms of health data we use on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, our competitors have realized that consumers in the healthcare industry value maps as well. Many of the other data vendors in our industry have started using various Esri products since Stratasan arrived on the scene. These companies mention “having Esri” now, but if you look at their offerings and compare them to Stratasan's you will quickly realize there is a BIG difference between “having Esri” and actually doing Healthcare GIS work using Esri.

When you look at the difference in Esri utilization, it can appear that having Esri running with your platform makes all of the various products in the Healthcare Data Analytics sphere equal, but if you dig a little deeper you'll find that still waters run deep. Esri makes the best GIS software and has the best Demographic and Psychographic data available and, with their new ArcGIS Online platform, it is easier than ever to access and use. But, this does not mean that everyone makes use of the same software, platforms, tools, maps, and outputs that we do at Stratasan. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Stratasan:

  • Uses multiple Web Mapping, Desktop Mapping, Extensions, and Data from Esri and other sources
  • Employs actual GIS professionals
  • Utilizes a wide variety of files, formats, and outputs

The direct result of the above points is that Stratasan's mapping products have superior customization, detail, aesthetics, support, functionality, and variety in map and data formats. Let's breakdown the aforementioned points so we can detail the vast difference between “having Esri” and Stratasan’s full suite of mapping abilities:

Web Mapping vs. Stratasan's GIS Mapping:

 When many of our competitors tell you they “Have Esri” they really mean that they are utilizing an Esri map server that allows you to view certain data layers, basemaps, and reports. The instant take away from that is usually a positive one. What else could you need? But, this type of application has major limitations in aesthetics, functionality, and map/data exporting. Apart from simply making your job harder, these limitations can pile up and prevent you from being able to attain what you need to get projects done. Oftentimes these limitations appear insignificant until you get into the web mapping application and encounter one or more of the following:

  • You can only utilize a select set of data, points, and basemaps
    • If you want to add, join, or view your own internal data or data from another source, you can't. You'll be at the mercy of the available data options and if what you need is not there, you're out of luck. Furthermore, if you want to change the map symbology (colors or symbols), you either cannot or have very limited choices.
  •  Fixed zooming will keep you from getting the map view you want
    • With web mapping applications, fixed zooms only let you zoom in and out at specific scale intervals. This means that your map view will either be zoomed in too close or not close enough, the facilities and data on your map will not fit the frame the way you would like, and your map export will leave you wishing for a lot more control
  •  The map and data exports are good, but they're not great
    • When you're done working on your map and the data it contains you'll want to export them out for presentation. When you go to do this you'll see that you can export the map as a PDF only, you can't control the resolution, and it has a fixed title, subtitle, and format. These limitations may lead to a good map, but not a GREAT one. These maps are work just fine for intelligence gathering, but are not really what you'd want for a presentation (A good example of a map export is the image below).
    • The same goes for exporting the data from your map. It exports in .csv or .xlsx, but these exports usually need to be reformatted and tinkered with before you can use them in other places. 

 SampleWebMap_BAO

How does Stratasan compare? (Web Mapping vs. Stratasan's GIS Mapping)

At Stratasan we use web map tools like this, but only for basic market information and intelligence. Web map exports do not touch our final products. For our mapping, we use advanced desktop mapping platforms that have none of the limitations listed above. Our Maps:

  • Can have any geographic data from any dataset we have or you send us. Furthermore, we can geocode your actual patients at the address-level and have them displayed on your maps. These patients can be queried and analyzed quickly and easily. We use many color-ramps and custom settings that web maps don't offer. We customize colors, points, lines, placement, layer weights, and map projections.
  • Have no zoom limitations, we use exact zooming to frame your maps perfectly with both placement, map layout, and with the purpose of making the information as meaningful and understandable as possible
  • We can export our maps in whatever resolution you would like and in almost any image file type you can request. These maps have custom legends, titles, and layouts that look clean and crisp, and leave you with no stress when you present them to a client or your team (Our map that covers the same data as the web map above is the image below).
  • And if you're set up with ArcMap we can send you the map files and data formatted for your GIS team to open them and get to work without having to process, symbolize, and manage the map data and layers. The same goes for the data in the map. We can send you whatever information you want in whatever format you need ready to go when you open it the first time.

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 Expertise, Experience, and Support:

When a web mapping platform is set up, it is usually done so through a wizard with the help of an implementation team. After the application is set up, it is good to go and is often left unattended while the company continues its business. This is a cause for concern for multiple reasons:

  • There are no GIS professionals to make sure the project maintains a strong sense of good cartographic design
  • Support or troubleshooting will be limited or nonexistent if you encounter an error or have a hard time translating your ideas to the software

How does Stratasan compare? (Expertise, Experience, and Support)

Any mapping platform Stratasan uses is also supported by Stratasan. Our GIS team can cut through the mapping and GIS jargon, understand healthcare vernacular, and help you solve the problem quickly and in an understandable way. Our team consists of members that have taught GIS courses, have years of Healthcare GIS (mapping and healthcare) experience, and use this knowledge to get our customers exactly what they want from the mapping software we help provide and support.

Without an actual GIS team, our competitors lack both the experience and expertise to get the job done right, keep you stress free, and deliver the maps that you want the way you want them. Support will be frustrating and usually will involve calling Esri support and dealing with their team. Esri support is very good, but there is a disconnect between their GIS product mindset and healthcare analysts trying to get job done. This makes the support process frustrating and time consuming. Stratasan’s GIS team builds a bridge between GIS terminology and healthcare intelligence that helps you achieve your goals.

 

Map & Data Files, Formats, Usage, and Delivery:

As earlier mentioned, the format of the web map outputs is quite limited in both usefulness and scope. With web mapping you can only export the limited data and maps in set formats. The PDF export of the map does not work very well with presentations or documents while the data export will be limited by its format and will have to be edited before it is ready to be used with another data, mapping, or data visualization application.

 If you utilize mapping or statistical software, these exports will limit or exclude the use of other mapping platforms (including ArcMap). The value of the data and information you can glean from the web map platform is instantly diminished by these limitations. 

How does Stratasan compare? (Map & Data Files, Formats, Usage, and Delivery)

 Stratasan can provide our maps and data in a wide variety of formats. This opens up options for you to use our maps and data in a variety of additional applications. Our maps and data are easily added into documents, spreadsheets, statistical programs, and other mapping/data visualization platforms. Since we have the ability to make and send you map shapefiles, you can import them into your own systems or mapping platforms and use them for yourself.

 If you are already set up with ArcMap we can send you the map document with all the layers symbolized, the shapefiles that drive it, and layer symbolization files that present the data exactly how we have. If you are not set up with ArcMap we can help you purchase, install, setup, learn, and use the application without Esri training or support.

 

Bridging the Gap Between Strategists, Analysts, and Marketing Within Your Organization:

 When you summarize all of the information presented here, the difference is obvious between “Having Esri” and actually using a holistic GIS approach to mapping using a much larger arsenal of Esri software, data, experience, and expertise like Stratasan does. To boil it down even further, Stratasan's GIS capabilities will allow all the members of your team to work together, regardless of their position, with maps and data that look great and have significantly more functionality than a web map.

 This information is valuable because you have a set list of functionalities, aesthetics, and support questions you can ask of healthcare data vendors when you are considering their tools and data. We encourage you to ask about all of these topics when you are in the process of choosing a data vendor. You know a lot more of Stratasan's mapping abilities now, but if you have any further questions about them, feel free to contact me at jhaley@stratasan.com. Our goal is to make your job easier and to deliver exactly what you want. 

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