Six steps to contain a virus

Canada Health Infoway Inc. is working with the country’s 13 provinces and territories to integrate six applications, or key modules, into one portal for public health surveillance and information management. Jeffrey Betts, a business development manager for systems integrator IBM Canada Ltd., offers a walkthrough of the various components:

1. Case management module: Contains information about individuals in a secure and private environment. Public health practitioners record their interactions with patients in a common database, so that information on things like medical examinations, treatment and therapy can be shared with other health professionals. Case management is not only for pandemic preparedness, but also for the day-to-day business of public health, inoculation of children, and other diseases like tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.

2. Outbreak system module: Gives an aggregate view of the case management medical information and allows epidemiologists to understand patterns of emerging, highly infectious diseases like influenza and meningitis, and other water-borne infections like Walkerton. This system helps monitor the spread and determine patterns of infection.

3. Health alerts module: The Public Health Agency’s CIOSC set of applications (Canadian Integrated Outbreak Surveillance Centre) is a method of alerting health-care centres about what appear to be spreading patterns of diseases. Medical officers or epidemiologists could coordinate their activities to minimize the spread of emerging infectious diseases by better understanding the patterns of incidents. “CIOSC is an important component of federal public health surveillance that is being integrated into the Canada Health Infoway-funded public health surveillance [network].”

4. Immunization module: Each jurisdiction keeps a schedule of who gets vaccinations. This information is managed in the immunization module and allows nurses to operate large immunization clinics. “Each province has a different approach to managing immunization information; the objective of this system is to provide a shared repository for immunization records, so that if people move across borders, that information isn’t lost.” Nurses can also run mass-immunization clinics in a temporary facility: in a church or a school, for instance. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, people were immunized for hepatitis using the same software, provided by Scientific Technologies Corp. of Tucson, Ariz.

5. Materials and vaccine management module: Tightly integrated with the immunization module, this application offers a view of where vaccine stockpiles are located across regions and allows health professionals to order vaccine, manage bad batches and order medical materials like needles, syringes and swabs.

6. Workload management module: A tool for allocating human resources and managing facilities and assets like quarantine rooms and IV pumps. “It’s like a scheduling and asset control system that coordinates the actions of a large number of health professionals,” says Betts. “In day-to-day clinics, the system can also be used to schedule client interactions.”

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