Public Health Surveillance System Update

Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
March 2007

Michael Wade, MPH
Syndromic Surveillance Epidemiologist

The Public Health Emergency Surveillance System (PHESS) continues to expand and improve.

PHESS is Indiana’s syndromic surveillance system that provides early detection for acts of bioterrorism, disease outbreaks, and other public health emergencies. Currently, patient chief complaint data from 71 hospital emergency departments (ED) are transmitted in near-real time to epidemiologists at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). ED chief complaints are processed by a data analysis tool called ESSENCE (Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics). PHESS epidemiologists use ESSENCE daily to identify elevations in syndromes that may potentially signal a health-related emergency.

The latest PHESS enhancement allows appropriate organizations expanded access to PHESS data through ESSENCE. The ISDH is providing ESSENCE orientation for hospitals submitting data to the PHESS as well as for local health departments (LHD) to enable access to their local data. This has two benefits. First, ESSENCE provides these partner organizations with a very effective tool they can use to monitor their data. Second, establishing ESSENCE users in this way will allow the ISDH to very rapidly and effectively conduct follow-up for suspicious syndromic data alerts. Feedback from ESSENCE orientation participants has been extremely positive.

To date, 24 PHESS hospitals and 9 LHDs have received ESSENCE orientation and can access their data. The remaining PHESS hospitals and their respective LHDs are targeted to receive ESSENCE orientation by the end of August 2007.