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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Apr 11;57(14):373-6.

Automated detection and reporting of notifiable diseases using electronic medical records versus passive surveillance--massachusetts, June 2006-July 2007.


Electronic medical record (EMR) systems have the potential to improve reporting of notifiable diseases beyond either traditional clinician-initiated or automated laboratory-based reporting systems. Traditional clinician-initiated passive surveillance is burdensome to clinicians and often incomplete and delayed. Electronic laboratory reporting addresses these limitations but often lacks information needed for public health purposes (e.g., patient signs and symptoms, prescribed treatments, and pregnancy status). Laboratory systems also do not integrate multiple laboratory tests to satisfy a case definition. Many EMRs, however, contain this information and store it in a form that is amenable to electronic analysis and reporting. Consequently, EMR-based reporting has the potential to provide active notifiable disease surveillance that is more timely, complete, and clinically detailed. This report summarizes findings from a pilot EMR-based electronic surveillance system in Massachusetts, which documented increases of 39% in reported chlamydia and 53% in reported gonorrhea for the period June 2006-July 2007, compared with the existing passive surveillance system. Eighty-one instances of pregnancy not identified by passive surveillance were reported by the electronic system in patients with chlamydia or gonorrhea. In addition, the electronic system identified 20 cases of pelvic inflammatory disease and four cases of acute hepatitis A, compared with none and one, respectively, reported via the passive system. Improved reporting can help public health departments better allocate limited resources for targeted investigations and interventions.

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