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New workflow tools help build community health surveillance solutions

Health Monitoring Systems : 16 April, 2008  (New Product)
Health Monitoring Systems (HMS) has released EpiCenter 2.0, an online system featuring robust new data and analytical tools that enable epidemiologists and others in public health agencies to operate more effectively and improve health surveillance programmes in their communities.
The open source EpiCenter incorporates advanced algorithms and other statistical management and analytical techniques that process and correlate multiple streams of heath-related data in real time. The system pinpoints and manages emerging and current threats to public health and safety, such as infectious disease outbreaks.

EpiCenter also features new collaborative work tools to enable public health officials to manage investigations and to share analysis and findings with colleagues and across regions.

'With the launch of EpiCenter, we are ushering in a new era for public health, allowing them to move beyond the limited biosurveillance and syndromic surveillance systems to build true community health surveillance programs,' said Kevin Hutchison, HMS president and chief executive officer. 'The community health surveillance approach combines the tracking and classifications of the different older approaches, coupled with expanded data sets and task-based functionality, into one comprehensive system for daily use, designed to more quickly identify and solve problems on the local and regional level.'

'EpiCenter gives public health users at all levels of government the ability to drill down into unprecedented detail and see patterns of health conditions on the national, state and local levels - even neighborhood by neighborhood.'

Examples of health data processed real time through EpiCenter include hospital emergency department registrations, ICD-9 (international classification of disease) codes, patient discharge records, electronic lab reports (ELRs), case management files and microbiology lab tests. EpiCenter can be customised with additional data sets, based on the needs of individual public health authorities.

EpiCenter features a number of innovations developed by HMS for its public health clients. Among them:

- Classifiers. EpiCenter includes new and detailed symptom classifiers (including such examples as influenza-like illness, fever, coughing and other disease-specific characteristics) that go beyond broader and less precise syndromic classifications (such as respiratory or gastrointestinal). Multiple symptoms can be assigned to one syndrome. EpiCenter also includes a new classifier for traumatic injuries from car accidents, child abuse, gunshot wounds and similar non-disease events.

- Anomaly investigations. EpiCenter automatically flags and notifies users about unusual patterns of health data. In older surveillance systems, each anomaly had to be investigated individually. EpiCenter gives users the ability to group anomalies into a single investigation. EpiCenter also includes workflow tools for public health investigators to record the progress of their investigations and share tasks and findings with colleagues and health authorities in other areas.

- Data visualisation. EpiCenter features sophisticated tools to visualise data about anomalies in map and chart formats. Maps can be created that highlight anomalies on a geographical or demographic basis. Charts can display outbreaks and occurrences chronologically or regionally with data sorted by numerous variables. Users can sort by patient age, gender and home neighborhood, as well as by location of healthcare-providing institutions or by other criteria users determine.

- Data normalisation. Analysis of data collected through EpiCenter can be normalised automatically - for example, corrected for seasonal or day-of-week variations that occur naturally.

- Discharge/disposition information. Unlike older biosurveillance systems, EpiCenter includes the ability to track the outcome of a patient's emergency department visit, including discharge, hospital admission, transfer or even death. That follow-up data gives public health a more accurate view of the severity of health issues confronting specific regions.

'There are compelling reasons why the health information technology sector is expanding: the need is there,' said Hutchison. 'And nowhere is that imperative more pronounced than in giving public health authorities the resources they need do a more effective job.

'We're helping public health use knowledge and insight to protect community health on a whole new - and more meaningful - scale.'
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