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Tracking the Spread of COVID-19: Disease Surveillance & Outbreak Management for Public Health Organizations

by Michelle Del Guercio & Gwen Bell & Tanya Oemig | August 31, 2020 | Blog

Local public health departments are essential for surveillance and response to infectious diseases like COVID-19. From detection and tracking to prevention and treatment (including screenings and vaccinations), public health efforts are most effective when based on up-to-date information from community healthcare providers and other sources. And yet, in a recent survey of more than 3,500 U.S. hospitals, more than 40% said their local public health departments cannot receive electronic data. As a result, many rely on patchwork data-sharing via fax or phone, which can hinder the ability to rapidly identify causes and control disease spread.

COVID-19 is not the only infectious disease public health departments face, but it is certainly the most pressing one right now. There are many barriers that can impair timely, actionable data-sharing for public health responses…that’s the bad news. The good news is that all challenges can be overcome with the right technology and support. Let’s explore:

About the authors
Michelle Del Guercio
Vice President, Marketing
Gwen Bell, MA, MPH
Manager of Professional Services Consulting, Epidemiologist
Tanya Oemig
Senior Professional Services Consultant, Epidemiologist
Challenge #1: Public health resources and budgets are strained, and patient privacy must be protected as their data is shared.

Solution: The Sunquest WorldCare™ Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Management System is a turnkey, market-tested solution that comes fully configured for COVID-19. With minimal additional configuration required, this secure solution aids with compliance and can be (and has been) deployed in less than 30 days. Today, public health organizations in the U.S., Canada, Qatar and Australia are using Sunquest WorldCare with great success for COVID-19 disease investigation and reporting, incidence mapping, contact tracing, transmission tracking, vector and cluster identification, group event management, and outbreak detection. In many cases, government funding is available to reduce budgetary hurdles (e.g., the CARES Act in the U.S.).

Challenge #2: Public health agencies need timely, two-way communication with local providers and other agencies. Electronic data-sharing requires connectivity across a wide range of disparate systems – daunting for many public health practices today.

Solution: Sunquest WorldCare is purpose built to deliver the infrastructure and integration public health departments need to quickly respond to infectious diseases like COVID-19. As a web-based solution, it supports fully electronic laboratory reporting and interfaces with multiple systems as needed, enhancing providers’ ability to report COVID-19 infections and providing increased security through audit trails. It also includes customization capabilities to ensure the solution fits your operations, not the other way around. Using Sunquest WorldCare, public health professionals can:

  • Quickly access reports and dashboards specific to COVID-19
  • Select from a variety of system reports, and design or request custom reports to suit changing needs
  • Easily add new diseases and workflows
  • Import data from other sources (e.g., vaccine and/or death registries) without complicated data migration efforts
  • Easily export data to use with third party applications and perform deeper analysis
Challenge #3: With the emergence of a new disease like COVID-19, new information comes in frequently and rapidly – and must be acted on just as swiftly.

Solution: By connecting electronic lab reports to individual patient records and delivering full contact tracing capabilities that intuitively link patients, incidents and contacts, Sunquest WorldCare is designed for diseases such as COVID-19 to be implemented and adapted with speed and agility. The system provides extremely flexible forms, including a shared library of forms available from other WorldCare users, all of which can be customized with individual business rules for effective probing, reporting and tracing. Whenever relevant new information about COVID-19 is uncovered, Sunquest WorldCare users can expand and modify their forms with ease.

From decades of experience providing highly connected diagnostic information/informatics solutions to public health organizations and laboratories worldwide, Sunquest has the expertise, agility and vision to support your public health response to COVID-19 and the diseases affecting your jurisdiction. Many Sunquest WorldCare customers, like the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar for example, use the solution to monitor and manage COVID-19 alongside 140+ other diseases, with the ability to further expand the library as new diseases emerge.

How many companies have both the expertise and the technology to fully support the disease surveillance and outbreak management needs of public health? Only One. Sunquest. Contact us today.

About the authors
Michelle Del Guercio
Vice President, Marketing
Gwen Bell, MA, MPH
Manager of Professional Services Consulting, Epidemiologist
Tanya Oemig
Senior Professional Services Consultant, Epidemiologist

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Posted on by Jay Griggs