I was sorting through some old papers and found one of those thick health care provider directories that you used to get when you started a new job with new health insurance. While most providers disseminate that information online now, the display of the information is often close to useless — you run a search and get dozens of providers back, and even if you can drill down by specialty, you’re still looking at a bunch of addresses with no sense of where they are relative to where you live. And who wants that kind of aggravation when you’re already sick?
To get ahead of the game (while I’m not sick), I created a Berkeley-area doctors maps mashup using screen-scraped data from my health care provider. I’m not a great interface designer, so it’s Web 1.0-certified, complete with frames. What the interface lacks in pizzazz, it hopefully earns back in simplicity: there’s a list of medical specialties on the left, and when you click on one, the providers that match that speciality display on the map in the window on the right.
Getting the data in shape was the hardest part, and required quite a bit of Perl elbow-grease with a little MySQL database design thrown in. From there, a little PHP hacking leveraging the Yahoo! Maps API and voila! That pediatric gastroenterologist that I hope you will never need is just one click away.
While the data part of this equation was difficult (it would have been WAY easier if this information was available via RSS), I think the utility of such an application made the data parsing worth it.