The National Retail Data Monitor is an intermediary organization positioned between the retailers and the organizations that conduct biosurveillance—a data utility for collection, analysis and distribution of OTC sales data to these organizations (Wagner et al., 2003, Wagner et al.).The NRDM as data utility saves both biosurveillance organizations and retailers' time and effort. Rather than 3000 local, state, and federal biosurveillance organizations negotiating with five or more retailers each and creating computer-to-computer interfaces (3000 x 5 = 15,000 interfaces potentially), the retailers interact with the data utility (20 interfaces), and the biosurveillance organizations interact with the data utility (an additional 3000 interfaces in the worst case). The NRDM has enlisted participation of 15 retail chains that have 22,000 stores and roughly 50% of market share. At present, eight chains with nearly 20,000 stores send data; the remaining seven chains are in the process of connecting to the NRDM.
The retail chains transmit data on a daily or more frequent basis to the NRDM. They transmit their total daily sales (or the total sales since the last transmission for more frequent transmissions) for each store and each GTIN.2 If a store is promoting a product, most retailers indicate that sales of the product were promotional. The NRDM aggregates the data into product categories and large geographical units such as zip codes, counties, and states.
The NRDM project makes OTC sales data available in three ways. First, individuals in biosurveillance organizations may obtain a user account to view OTC sales data in the NRDM's user interface. At present, 577 individuals working for biosurveillance organizations in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have user accounts for the NRDM. Second, a biosurveillance organization may obtain a daily file of OTC sales data for its jurisdiction. The NRDM provides 13 biosurveillance organizations OTC sales data in this manner. Third, a biosurveillance organization may configure its biosurveillance system to obtain OTC sales data using web services protocols.3 One biosurveillance organization acquires OTC sales data from the NRDM in this manner.
The NRDM is a model for the collection and distribution of biosurveillance data of national scope. It is easy to envision similar data utilities for other national sources of biosurveillance data, such as laboratory data from national commercial laboratories and weather data.4
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