CDC enhances disease surveillance system

In a move to make the system more attractive to state and local governments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking a contractor to develop a hosted version of its National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS).

The NEDSS system also has been modified to make it more modular and expandable, the CDC’s C. Scott Danos told an audience at the Government Health IT conference in Washington, D.C., Nov. 18. The core system is known as the NEDSS Base System.

NEDSS collects data for population health surveillance, allowing public health officials at the state, local and national levels to spot patterns of disease and respond promptly. Besides garden-variety infectious diseases, such as the flu and tuberculosis, the system can help in detecting outbreaks of unusual or deliberately introduced diseases.

However, only 10 states are using the federally supplied system, and not all of those are using it statewide or for all reportable diseases. Another eight states are preparing to install NEDSS, said Danos, who is a team leader for CDC’s National Center for Public Health Informatics. In other cases, states and localities are using other surveillance systems.

The new application service provider version will be created during the coming year and tested in four states with varying characteristics. Danos listed Rhode Island, Wyoming and Montana as likely partners for the pilot implementations.

The CDC projects that as many as 20 state and local public health departments may begin using the system in the next three years.

The CDC contract will be awarded through the General Services Administration’s Applications ’n Support for Widely Diverse End User Requirements governmentwide contract vehicle. Danos said the request for proposals has a large footprint.

Ten large systems integrators are eligible to bid on the work through ANSWER. Two of them, Computer Sciences Corp. and Science Applications International Corp., have worked on NEDSS since 2001.

Danos said state and local governments often lack the money and IT skills to install and operate a system such as NEDSS. “The tools that they need to [implement it] are in short supply,” he said. For example, tech-savvy employees often leave for higher-paying private-sector jobs, he said.

The application service provider version will be easier for public health departments to use, CDC officials hope, because an IT company will operate and maintain it.

Despite the relatively low rate of NEDSS implementation, Danos said, NEDSS was generating a lot of valuable data from one of the country’s largest medical laboratory services companies, LabCorp. He said LabCorp is providing three times as many reports as it used to when it relied on paper, telephone and faxes to report lab results related to reportable diseases. An average 24-day delay in getting the data to CDC has been reduced to three days, he said.

The NEDSS Base System also is being enhanced with new commercial messaging, geocoding and record de-duplication capabilities, Danos said.

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