Study suggests better use of web could improve infectious disease reporting

HERSHEY, PA-- Better disease reporting information on state health departments' Web sites could help physicians more quickly and easily determine how, when and where to report infectious diseases that may represent outbreaks or bioterrorism-related events, according to a study by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Pennsylvania Department of Health researchers.

"Because nearly 80 percent of U.S. physicians use the Web, we feel it offers public health jurisdictions a great opportunity to facilitate disease reporting," said David Welliver, M.S., M.B.A., information technologist, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "Most of the 57 state and territory health departments that report diseases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already maintain Web sites. However, we found that relatively few sites contained all the types of information important in facilitating infectious disease reporting, and in many cases the information was buried deep in the Web site."

This study offers the first assessment of the status of U.S. states' and territories' use of the Web to aid in infectious disease reporting. The study, "Use of the Web by State and Territorial Health Departments to Promote Infectious Disease Reporting," appears in the March 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Physicians and other health care workers who want to comply with disease reporting mandates often encounter logistical barriers," said Kathleen G. Julian, M.D., infectious disease fellow, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "If you diagnose encephalitis and you are prepared to report it, you'll need contact and other health department information. An easily accessible disease reporting Web site could be a helpful resource."

The team surveyed state epidemiologists in 57 U.S. states and territories that participate in the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) of the Centers for Disease Control an

Contact: Valerie Gliem
Penn State

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