Learn about the pioneering platform VFMatch.org which harnesses the transformative potential of geospatial data in healthcare.
In 2022, it was estimated that 4.8 billion people - particularly those in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) - lack access to safe and affordable surgery. Virtue Foundation has partnered with CARTO to publish insights on hospital accessibility and medical deserts in LMIC, aiming to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery.
We met up with Dr Joan LaRovere, Co-Founder & Vice President at Virtue Foundation, and Kim Azzarelli, Co-Founder of Seneca Women, to find out more about Virtue Foundation’s inspiring mission to use geospatial data in healthcare.
Virtue Foundation, a Non-Profit Organization, has been actively involved in the global health movement, working to raise awareness, inspire action and render assistance through healthcare, education and empowerment initiatives. Their collaboration with CARTO aims to develop a solution that addresses the challenges of healthcare access in underserved populations and increases the efficiency of global health philanthropy.
VFMatch.org brings together key players - medical professionals, healthcare facilities, governments, nonprofit organizations and the private sector - to intelligently match the needs and resources in the global healthcare sector. Drawing from two decades of on-the-ground medical missions and using Machine Learning in the CARTO cloud native platform, VFMatch.org is currently in beta and is scheduled for an official launch in October 2023. This pioneering platform has 5 key features:
- Nonprofit Listings
- Healthcare Facilities
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Country Maps and Key Information
- Toolkit for Nonprofits
Virtue Foundation recognized the need for enhanced access to granular healthcare data as the existing marketplace for identifying surgical hotspots was fragmented. In our State of Spatial Data Science 2023 report, we emphasized that incomplete data presents a significant barrier to meaningful analysis and impactful visualizations. To overcome this, Dr LaRovere and Dr Ebby Elahi, Director of International Affairs at Virtue Foundation, collaborated with data scientists to create the World Compendium of Healthcare Facilities and Nonprofit Organizations. This comprehensive index provides critical information on healthcare facilities and nonprofits in 72 low and lower-middle-income countries. Consequently, medical volunteers, non-profit organizations, governments, and the private sector can access local data essential to identifying the most vulnerable populations.
Below is the Global Map of Healthcare Needs, which overlays the World Compendium database of healthcare facilities with world population density data. Stakeholders can utilize the dashboard controls to toggle by distance and type of hospital services.
CARTO’s rapid spatial analysis capabilities also gives the Virtue Foundation more flexibility when developing visualizations for new use cases. To understand specific country contexts and validate their models, the foundation initially collaborated with Ghana and Mongolia, leveraging their long-standing relationships. Through the maps created, the Mongolian government successfully monitored their existing hospitals and identified the gaps and opportunities for additional facilities.
By working with countries worldwide, Virtue Foundation is establishing additional data pipelines to address pressing questions such as where to build hospitals, which specialties are lacking, and what the best use of their resources is. As a result, the foundation can enrich their datasets and empower users to work on different use cases, including:
- Easy identification of those healthcare facilities best poised to support vulnerable populations seeking immediate care from the pandemic
- Better visualization of hospital locations in relation to population centers
- Enhanced prediction of targeted resource allocation and aid by NGOs and governments to strengthen capacity and capabilities in facilities capable of saving lives in their respective countries
VFMatch.org will also be used to identify hospital accessibility and medical deserts; a community lacking access to medical necessities. CARTO allowed the Virtue Foundation team to interact with data in their data warehouse, complimenting the Foundation’s own data pipeline. What used to take months can now be accomplished in an afternoon, allowing the team to cover more analysis in a condensed period of time. The connection to their data warehouse guarantees performance levels and provides a scalable solution in line with surges in usage and data complexity.
Using the CARTO platform, the team mapped different specialisms in high demand, such as neurology, gynecology, obstetrics to identify the medical deserts. By enriching this data with geospatial data such as road networks, population density, topography and demographics from the Data Observatory, this comprehensive approach allows for a better understanding of popular regions and analysis of hospital accessibility. Ultimately, VFMatch.org facilitates the matching of medical professionals with regions in need, ensuring efficient and impactful healthcare delivery.
Data visualization plays a crucial role as it enables users to comprehend complex information quickly. VFMatch.org strives to tell a story, as outlined by Dr Elahi: the people who most need to make themselves known are the least able to do so. To effectively portray various aspects of the healthcare landscape, such as medical hotspots, different specialties, and resource distribution, a visual component is key in providing users with a comprehensive view.
For example, this map presents the time required to reach the closest health facility from any location across Ghana, shedding light on accessibility and travel duration on a national scale. The travel time polygons are styled with a single hue, allowing for differences in travel time to be more understandable at a glance. Explore this map here.
Visualizing the data through different colors and layers unlocks a new perspective. By using CARTO’s developer toolkit, the Virtue Foundation enhances engagement with their mission, offering NGOs, ministries, and global health stakeholders an intuitive means to explore data relationships and geographical distributions to facilitate informed decisions. The platform’s visual interface is an ideal tool for storytelling and problem solving, presenting data patterns and connections in a compelling manner.
This project had a critical location component, putting the Virtue Foundation at the forefront of their collaboration options. Thanks to the collaboration with CARTO, the foundation has access to the tools and maps to support communities in need and perform spatial analysis to improve the delivery of healthcare globally. VFMatch.org has the potential to be used at individual and governmental levels, allowing volunteers to put their skillset to use and governments to manage their resources effectively.
Don’t miss out on hearing from Virtue Foundation at SDSC23 in New York! We will be joined by Dr Joan LaRovere, to talk about “Data for Good: Changing the Shape of Medical Deserts to Save Lives.”
Is your organization working to undertake the disparity in global health care? There’s a lot to be done and the challenges medical professionals are facing require an all-hands-on-deck approach. Get in touch with us to see how we can help with your projects!