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Surveillance for acute respiratory infections: should we include all outpatient visits or focus on urgent care areas?


A comprehensive electronic medical record (EMR) represents a rich source of information that can be harnessed for epidemic surveillance. At this time, however, we do not know how EMR-based data elements should be combined to improve the performance of surveillance systems. In a manual EMR review of over 15 000 outpatient encounters, we observed that two-thirds of the cases with an acute respiratory infection (ARI) were seen in the emergency room or other urgent care areas, but that these areas received only 15% of total outpatient visits. Because of this seemingly favorable signal-to-noise ratio, we hypothesized that an ARI surveillance system that focused on urgent visits would outperform one that monitored all outpatient visits.

Submitted by hparton on