The Pros and Cons of 5 Software Solutions
By Jason Haley
As you probably know by now, here at Stratasan we LOVE using maps! They are one of our most valuable data visualization tools and resources.
- You can turn a 200 page spreadsheet into a easy-to-digest one-page map that anyone can intuitively understand—and derive great value from—just by looking at it.
- Through Launch Pathway’s Storyboard feature, insightful maps of your facility can be added to presentation-ready decks within minutes, providing the setup for more meaningful meeting discussions.
- We recognize the value that a properly created map can provide when looking to identify patient outmigration, physician loyalties, and service area opportunities for growth.
When an organization decides it’s ready to get into the mapping space, they can quickly become overwhelmed with the various mapping software options and the large price gaps between them. If you are looking for or considering investing in a mapping platform for your team, here’s a list of the options along with our recommendations.
For each of the options below, we outline pros, cons, and pricing. Furthermore, we provide our recommendations for the various platforms based on needs and budgets. So, without further adieu, let’s get mappy!
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Esri’s ArcMap for Desktop
Esri’s ArcMap for Desktop is the gold standard in the GIS world. Compared to the options that follow, Esri’s mapping platform and the data you can integrate into it are unrivaled. This is the platform we use for our GIS team at Stratasan.
- Pros: Esri allows easy integration of outside data. Analysts can customize nearly every aspect of their maps and support resources/forms are easy to access and quite helpful. This option works bests for analysts who would be mapping frequently.
- Cons: ArcMap is a very complex tool (think Adobe Photoshop for maps). Because of this, it will be unpleasant experience for analysts who only need to make a map every now and again. If you are not in ArcMap frequently, you may have to start from scratch in learning how to use the tool with every map you create. As a result, infrequent users maps tend to be crude and analysts can become easily frustrated with it.
- Pricing: Starting at $1,500 per user the first year, with annual maintenance at $800 each following year. ArcMap Desktop is more costly than the others on this list, but it is the most robust and comprehensible. However, ArcMap does not come natively with Esri’s demographic/business data. To utilize that, you will need to budget at least $3,000 annually. Esri maps and data are the best, but to get the tools you need, it quickly can become quite cost prohibitive.
- Recommendation: We use this mapping platform here at Stratasan and it’s what I recommend to most of our clients who are serious about in-house mapping.
Maptitude is a great standalone mapping platform option that does almost everything most organizations need for mapping and data analysis. Maptitude provides everything you need to realize the benefits of desktop mapping and spatial analysis with a single, easy-to-use package.
- Pros: Maptitude is user intuitive, has a flat annual fee, and comes with demographics/business data that is updated annually.
- Cons: The customization is limited, as is the interface. Maptitude will work for what you need, but you may find that you wish you could customize the output more than you can.
- Pricing: $695 per user per year
Recommendation: Maptitude is my goto option for organizations when Esri is either too expensive or too complex. It has no subscription fees, is much easier to use, comes with demographic data built in at no additional cost, and supports secure offline data storage.
MapInfo / Pitney Bowes
If the first two options do not get you what you are looking for, you may want to explore MapInfo from Pitney Bowes.
- Pros: MapInfo comes with its own Pitney Bowes data.
- Cons: It is a lot like Maptitude, but slightly less pretty and with slightly less functionality. MapInfo seems to be more sales-based than analysis-based in its current form. On the outside, it looks like it will get you everything need, but it can be a lot to take in.
- Pricing: Starting at $1,995 per user per year
Recommendation: Overall, I do not recommend working with MapInfo unless you have a good reason to not use Esri or Maptitude. It is more expensive than Maptitude, but less than Esri. I would only explore using MapInfo if you are doing due diligence when exploring platforms.
Tableau allows users to build both maps and charts all in one platform. It is a solid option for getting everything done in one place.
- Pros: Great visualizations and fairly data friendly. In many large companies, Tableau is the standard tool to use.
- Cons: It is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to share, export, or print easily. This makes it difficult to add maps into slide decks. It has a few too many bells and whistles and can become a time suck.
- Pricing: $840 per year per user
Recommendation: If you need maps for only certain projects and reports and you ultimately want a few takeaway maps, this platform does not make it easy for you. This platform becomes difficult to use when sharing data amongst different teams and decision makers in your organization. I would stick with Esri or Maptitude unless you already have an existing Tableau infrastructure in place and a good reason to stick to it.
Stratasan’s Launch Pathway
Our final option is Stratasan’s newest tool, Launch Pathway, Launch Pathway is a visual intelligence platform that transforms complex market data into straightforward insights. Like Tableau, Launch Pathway is equipped to build both maps and charts all in one platform. What sets Launch Pathway apart from Tableau is that it was developed with a singular focus—to elevate the strategy of healthcare market planners. Tableau was created to make sense of every kind of data—whether you’re looking at voter registration, logistics, Wall Street financials, or healthcare data.
- Pros: With the Storyboards feature within Launch Pathway, users will be able to quickly convert the useful insights they uncover into elegant maps and presentations that will be automatically refreshed whenever new data is available. Additionally, the Demographics feature within Launch Pathway uses Esri’s API, giving users access to the most current, accurate data in the industry. In addition to the mapping element; Launch Pathway includes elements for market summaries, demographics, market share, payor mix, facilities, and ZIP codes. The data elements present can be viewed in tables, graphics, and charts.
- Cons: Launch Pathway is great for healthcare data, but does not allow for demographics or custom icons within maps. Launch only includes hospital locations for the state datasets you are using. This lack of customization is not ideal if you want access to custom data or templates within the mapping platform of your choice.
- Pricing: Pricing is based upon contract terms. Reach out to Sean Conway via Calendly for more information.
Recommendation: Overall, Launch Pathway is a great tool for mapping for users interested in healthcare strategy, marketing, and planning.But, if your organization is looking to get more into custom mapping and to use more than just state-based healthcare data or basic demographics, I would recommend using Launch Pathway in tandem with another mapping application. For more information about Launch Pathway’s mapping capabilities, or to set up a demonstration of this tool, schedule a conversation with Sean Conway today.
Mapping is one of the best ways to understand your markets, visualize the data within them, and easily create digestible stories for presentations and decision-makers. With this helpful summary of all the options on the market, I hope you can identify the right fit for the needs of your team.
Good luck, and happy mapping!
Article by Jason Haley, Manager of Customer Success for Stratasan