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Processing of Novel Electronic Health Data to Support Public Health Surveillance


Accurately gauging the health status of a population during an event of public health significance (e.g. hurricanes, H1N1 2009 pandemic) in support of emergency response and situation awareness efforts can be a challenge for established public health surveillance systems in terms of geographic and population coverage as well as the appropriateness of health indicators. The demand for timely, accurate, and event-specific data can require the rapid development of new data assets to “fill-in” existing information gaps to better characterize the scope, scale, magnitude, and population health impact of a given event within a very narrow time-window. Such new data assets may be concurrently under development and evaluation while being used to support response efforts. Recent examples include the “drop-in” surveillance processes deployed at evacuation centers following Hurricane Katrina1 and the illness and injury surveillance systems established for response workers during the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill response. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic response, CDC acquired access to data from several national-level health information systems that previously had been un-vetted as public health information sources. These sources provided data extracts from massive administrative or electronic medical records (EMR) based in hospital and primary care settings. It was hoped that such data could supplement existing influenza surveillance systems and aid in the characterization of the pandemic. Few of these new data sources had formal documentation or concise information on the underlying populations and geographies represented.



To describe data management and analytic processes undertaken to rapidly acquire and use previously unavailable data during a public health emergency response.

Submitted by hparton on