A new website launched by Georgia health leaders aims to make it easier for consumers to compare thousands of hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities to find what best fits their needs.
GaMap2Care.info allows users to search for nearby medical facilities using an address, city name, ZIP code and other options. Consumers can also find out how large a facility is, an address, phone number, photos of the building exterior and even inspection reports that show whether it has recent violations. The state Department of Community Health launched the site in early November.
If an adult child who lives out of state needs to find a care facility for his parent, he can use the map to identify ones to visit in advance, said Sharon Dougherty, senior adviser in the department’s healthcare facility regulation division.
“It allows them to do kind of a drive by in a particular area … to make comparisons and narrow down their choices,” Dougherty said.
The idea to build the website developed out of a disaster preparedness meeting in which staff discussed the need for a better way to easily locate facilities and discern where they are in relation to each other, said Matthew Jarrard, deputy division chief of healthcare facility regulation.
It also could be useful to researchers, policy makers and other groups who are making decisions on health care needs and spending, Jarrard said. Health inspectors also may use the site to map out and schedule site visits to hospitals and other facilities, cutting down on travel costs, Dougherty said.
“Putting out (information) in a consolidated location rather than siloed in different locations is our goal,” Jarrard said. “(The website) provides a foundation to do that.”
Geo-mapping is a great tool for consumers and policymakers who are making decisions that affect consumers, said Cindy Zeldin, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future.
Zeldin said the group encourages the health department to expand its mapping tool, adding primary and specialty care providers, quality data, information on Georgia’s uninsured and other information. It will help show what areas of the state have barriers to care and to improve the state’s health care system, she said.
The state doesn’t plan to include hospital quality data, which can be found on other websites. But it does plan to add more information, such as population and additional map layers showing public health districts, Jarrard said.
“There’s data that needs to be added over time,” Dougherty said. “It’s a work in progress.”