Stories about: biosurveillance

What’s going around: Can biosurveillance data improve patient care in real-time?

A broad view of what's going on locally may help doctors make better clinical decisions when patients come to them for things like strep throat. (zigazou76/Flickr)

Anyone’s risk of catching an infectious disease is closely linked to what epidemiologists call the disease’s incidence: the number of people in a given area infected with that disease in a given time period. We often have a kind of water-cooler-level awareness about incidence, saying things like, “I hear there’s something going around,” or “Half of my son’s class was out with something last week,” while talking to co-workers or friends about our sniffle or our child’s stomach bug.

Kenneth Mandl and Andrew Fine, in the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program, want to take this awareness a step further by collecting real-time population-level biosurveillance information and packaging it for doctors, like your primary care doctor or your child’s pediatrician. Right now, doctors rarely have access to this kind of data, and even if they do, they have few recognized methods at their disposal for formally making use of the data in their clinical decision making processes.

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