Making Use Of Data Utilities

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Developers of biosurveillance systems should be aware of organizations that are undertaking the task of obtaining biosurveillance data on their behalf. Some of these efforts are mature, and their technical requirements for transmitting data should be taken into account in designing a system. Other efforts are more nascent, and whether you should take their technical requirements into account when designing your system will have to be assessed individually.

5.1. National Retail Data Monitor

The NRDM operated by the RODS Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh, is a data utility that it provides over-the-counter sales data for use by health departments for biosurveillance. As discussed in Chapter 33, the NRDM provides a Web service interface to other biosurveillance systems.

5.2. The National Weather Service

The National Weather Service operates a data utility that makes weather data freely available for download (see Chapter 19). The data are hourly observations made by automated weather stations at airports.

5.3. Surveillance Data, Inc.

Surveillance Data, Inc., sells healthcare data as well as market research data to organizations involved in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. They have an area of service in provisioning disease surveillance data ( index.php=page_id=sur).

5.4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce operates a data utility primarily for use by aviation. Weather data from the United States, as well as around the world, are collected in real time, in standard formats, and integrated in a central location that are publicly available without technical or administrative barriers ( The NOAA services is also discussed in Chapters 19 and 32.

5.5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The BioSense program has plans to offer various types of biosurveillance data as a data utility (GAO, 2005). As of this writing, it receives International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-coded data from the Veterans Administration (VA) and Department of Defense Healthcare systems and laboratory test orders (not results) from one national laboratory company. Data access methods that will allow other organizations to receive the data are still under development.

5.6. National Bioterrorism Syndromic Surveillance Demonstration Project

Although the National Bioterrorism Syndromic Surveillance Demonstration Project is not functioning as a data utility, it collects data from large health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and health plans, some of which span many public health jurisdictions. It may be possible to negotiate data use agreements with this organization ( We are not aware of the technical transmission methods that might be employed.

5.7. Department of Defense and VA

At present, the Department of Defense and VA are functioning as a data utility for BioSense, the BioNet project in San Diego, and for the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) system in several jurisdictions. It may be possible to obtain data from them directly. We are not aware of the technical transmission methods used.

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