Time of Arrival Analysis in NC DETECT to Find Clusters of Interest from Unclassified Patient Visit Records


TOA identifies clusters of patients arriving to a hospital ED within a short temporal interval. Past implementations have been restricted to records of patients with a specific type of complaint. The Florida Department of Health uses TOA at the county level for multiple subsyndromes (1). In 2011, NC DPH, CCHI and CDC collaborated to enhance and evaluate this capability for NC DETECT, using NC DETECT data in BioSense 1.0 (2). After this successful evaluation based on exposure complaints, discussions were held to determine the best approach to implement this new algorithm into the production environment for NC DETECT. NC DPH was particularly interested in determining if TOA could be used for identifying clusters of ED visits not filtered by any syndrome or sub-syndrome. In other words, can TOA detect a cluster of ED visits relating to a public health event, even if symptoms from that event are not characterized by a predefined syndrome grouping? Syndromes are continuously added to NC DETECT but a syndrome cannot be created for every potential event of public health concern. This TOA approach is the first attempt to address this issue in NC DETECT. The initial goal is to identify clusters of related ED visits whose keywords, signs and/or symptoms are NOT all expressed by a traditional syndrome, e.g. rash, gastrointestinal, and flu-like illnesses. The goal instead is to identify clusters resulting from specific events or exposures regardless of how patients present – event concepts that are too numerous to pre-classify.


To describe a collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL), the North Carolina Division of Public Health (NC DPH), and the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine Carolina Center for Health Informatics (CCHI) to implement time-of-arrival analysis (TOA) for hospital emergency department (ED) data in NC DETECT to identify clusters of ED visits for which there is no pre-defined syndrome or sub-syndrome.

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December, 2012

August 20, 2018

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