Veterinary Databases

There is no centralization of private veterinary EVR database information. Veterinarians contribute case details for notifiable diseases to their relevant authority (state or federal department of agriculture). However, the development of a central system that can capture and monitor the clinical picture of veterinary case load would be useful for detecting change to the pattern of disease presentation, similar to systems that monitor ED submissions in human medicine.

The National Animal Health Information System (NAHIS) operating within Australia is an example of a coordinated multispecies centralized animal disease database. The information within NAHIS allows Australia to report the national disease status for multiple pathogens and multiple host species to the OIE and to other trading partners. Many organizations, including state and federal departments of agriculture, quarantine services, the Animal Health Australia, and wildlife organizations, provide data to NAHIS. However, NAHIS only collects aggregated data from the various reporting bodies, and data are not provided in real time. The U.S. equivalent is the aforementioned nascent NAHRS. The USDA collects data into NAHRS from similar sources and in a similar form to the data provided to NAHIS in Australia.

The majority of university-affiliated veterinary healthcare facilities send data to the Veterinary Medicine DataBase

(VMDB), a project housed at the University of Illinois. The National Cancer Institute originally established VMDB to help researchers study cancer in animals. Today, veterinary hospitals send diagnoses and procedure codes to VMDB. Submission does not occur in real time; lag times vary from a few days to months, with one participant offering an average of 2 to 3 weeks. Although VMDB is a rich storehouse of data on millions of animal health care encounters, its usefulness in the early detection of epidemics is very limited (Veterinary Medical Database, 2004; Kansas State University-Manhattan, KS, Medical Records Department, personal communication, 2005; University of Missouri-Columbia, MO, Medical Records Department, personal communication, 2005).

To encourage timely submissions and enhance the surveillance value of the database, VMDB has offered the veterinary community a free electronic submission utility that harnesses SNOMED. Submission, although still entirely voluntary, is easier now, and VMDB's staff hopes the new software will lead to significantly reduced lag times.

The Rapid Syndrome Validation Project for Animals (RSVP-A) is currently being examined to see if it offers an effective means of monitoring the health of cattle. The system required clinical veterinarians to classify cases into one of six major syndrome groupings. The data recording and transmission occurs in real time by the use of mobile computing devices. The Kansas State University study is determining the usability and utility of the system, with a primary focus on completeness of veterinary reporting and acceptance by veterinarians of the technology (De Groot et al., 2003).

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