Skip to comments.Computerized Surveillance System Tracks Disease [detects "Clinton" effect in Westchester NY]
Posted on 08/11/2005 6:17:47 AM PDT by LurkedLongEnough
White Plains, NY - It may not seem too likely, but what if a number of people in Westchester began experiencing similar symptoms but all reported to different clinics and hospitals? How long would it take for someone to put two and two together and realize theres a pattern of illness here - an epidemic, or possibly even an act of bioterrorism?
Probably not too long, given a computerized early warning surveillance system developed by the Westchester County departments of Information Technology (DoIT) and Health. The Community Health Electronic Surveillance System, or CHESS, was initiated by the county as part of an overall push to use technology to make residents safer and even more secure and has recently been put to the test.
Over the past few weeks, after a number of patients were found to have Legionnaires disease in New Rochelle, county health workers have been analyzing electronic data gathered from hospitals. They search for patients with pneumonia and have disease control specialists follow up by identifying those at high-risk for Legionnaires who would benefit from additional tests.
While there have fortunately been no large-scale public health emergencies, CHESS has identified the beginnings of flu season the past two winters, searched for SARS patients, looked for food illnesses during the 2004 blackout, and caught the Clinton effect a spike in the number of patients reporting to emergency rooms with chest pain following revelation of the former president's heart problems. Following two years of effort and coordination with medical facilities, all the hospitals in Westchester with emergency departments and selected outpatient clinics are now participating in the program. CHESS gets numbers from hospitals on a daily basis and statistically analyzes any unusual levels or patterns of disease.
Having all hospitals with emergency departments connected to this reporting system greatly enhances our ability to detect disease outbreaks more quickly than before, said Commissioner of Health Dr. Joshua Lipsman.
Having CHESS in place allows health officials to be more pro-active and look for illnesses before they become more widespread.
While many counties of similar size throughout the country continue to depend on outdated modes of detection, Westchester understands the benefits of investing in smart, innovative technology, said Dr. Norm Jacknis, the countys CIO. By fully automating and expanding surveillance capabilities, DoIT has eliminated expensive manual labor, bolstered reporting accuracy and enabled, for the first time, data to be pooled from every hospital emergency room in the county.
While the development of CHESS began prior to 9/11, the aftermath of the attacks and the threats of anthrax and other forms of bioterrorism provided an even stronger impetus for establishing a real-time surveillance system. The system is now an integral part of the county's efforts to improve emergency preparedness.
The county was recently honored with a 2005 NACo Achievement Award which named CHESS Best in Category among the Information Technology entries. In addition, CHESS was presented at the Second National Syndromic Surveillance Conference in October 2003 and is being used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a model program for other county and state health departments.
LOL--before I read the article, I thought they were referring to Clinton's oft-discussed STDs!
My 41-year-old sister, who lives one town away from Chappaqua, had a heart attack last week. She had a stint put in yesterday at Westchester County Medical Center.
Sorry to hear that. Hope she's doing better.
I am sure she wouldn't have gone to the hospital--at her age--if there hadn't been so much coverage of Clinton's stuff in the Journal News...
Thanks for the good wishes!
Even I have to admit that we can't blame heart attacks on Clinton.
Me too. I thought it was going to be about an explosion of STDs after Bubba moved there!
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