September 18, 2009
Emergency Medical Associates, which provides emergency services to hospitals and health systems in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, is using business intelligence technology from SAP to track swine flu this autumn.
The SAP technology will enable EMA to alert federal organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as 21 emergency medical departments, about patterns of outbreak. Hospitals will be able to use the information to staff according to swine flu trends, SAP said in a statement. EMA originally chose data-visualization dashboards by Xcelsius to monitor key performance indicators related to patients. During the H1N1 outbreak in April, EMA saw the potential for tracking flu infection patterns among its emergency rooms, using information such as the change in number of visits, patient-walkout percentages, time of walk-in compared to time of admittance, and how long it took to treat and release or admit a patient. Physicians had online access to the information in realtime with reporting and analysis software from SAP BusinessObjects. "By drilling down into specific syndromes in our patient reports, we can pinpoint spikes in fever and flu-like symptoms that are swine flu indicators," said Jonathan Rothman, director of Data Management, Emergency Medical Associates, as quoted in the SAP statement. "Then we compare it with our large archive of historical information to figure out where we stand. When statistics for a particular symptom exceed standard deviation, we know we've got a problem on our hands. From there, we do our due diligence to notify local, state and federal organizations like the CDC about swine flu growth patterns and any geographic spreading of the virus we're able to forecast, so that they can help inform the public." EMA collects data from 1.2 patients annually, and 1,300 monthly reports. The firm sets specific targets and alarm notifications for when swine-flu-related symptoms exceed standard-deviation thresholds. SAP is part of a range of technology healthcare providers are bringing to bear to track swine flu outbreaks. Providers are also using Twitter, as well as Google tools and iPhone apps. Google Flu Trends tracks swine flu by watching search results, and the CDC is using Twitter, YouTube and other Internet tools to track swine flu.
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