Digital Epidemiology Chronic Disease Tool (DEPICT): Dynamic Visualization of Health Data for Chronic Disease in NL

Lay Summary 

DEPICT is an online mapping system of NL that displays aggregate demographic information (i.e. age, sex) and health-related information (chronic disease type, comorbidities, mortality, inpatient and outpatient healthcare service utilization) by level of geography (FSA, CSD, DA, RHA Regions and Local Areas). DEPICT was created by analyzing and linking multiple provincial health databases, which were then integrated into the online mapping system using computer programming and geographic information systems (GIS) software.

Some of the things we considered and assessed while developing DEPICT include:
-The availability and accessibility of relevant health data and for accessing this data while ensuring confidentiality and privacy.
-The technical and methodological processes for marrying health data to geographical and demographic information. Develop and test a DEPICT prototype.
-Assess the usability of DEPICT and identify areas needing improvement.

To evaluate the feasibility and process for establishing such a system, we made a prototype mapping system that tracked information for a single chronic disease (diabetes). This helped us get an idea of the steps involved in developing and implementing a successful tool. It also helped to identify some technical and procedural issues that we could improve for the next iteration of DEPICT.

Ultimately we created an accessible and user-friendly online information system that instantly displays chronic disease information (prevalence, incidence, outpatient and inpatient service utilization in NL) as dynamic tables, graphs or maps. Since the successful prototype, we have secured additional funding to expand the tool to include multiple chronic diseases and to ensure the continued development of DEPICT so it displays the most up-to-date health information.

DEPICT is the first system of its kind that can compare health info by area of the province. DEPICT has transformed existing, but disconnected, data in NL into information to support research and policy development. Information systems such as the one we developed allows policy makers, practitioners, and researchers to make evidence-informed decisions at all levels of the healthcare system. 

Some of the advantages of the DEPICT system include:

-Increased relevance due to the recent deployment of the electronic health record
-Provides the ability to see the space and time dimensions of health events
-Allows for the sharing of chronic disease information in a reliable and timely manner
-Decision-makers can more effectively allocate resources at their disposal
-Allow decision-makers to easily visualize problems in health services, social services,  and patient/community physical environments
-Connects a fragmented system by linking health professionals, empowering communities with information, and leading and responding to health reform

For more information on this project, please contact Nicole Porter

Faculty of Medicine
Primary Healthcare Research Unit (Clinical Disciplines - Family Medicine)
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Community Health
Chronic Disease
Industry Sectors 
Health Care and Social Assistance
Start date 
1 Jan 2015