Health Alert Network and Siemens Medical set up biodefence pilot programme to tackle bioterrorism

Malvern 28 January 2002The United States Department of Health and Human Services has launched an initiative which includes the Health Alert Network (HAN) developing a communications network used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to communicate with state and local health departments regarding possible disease outbreaks, or to provide warning if a disease outbreak is known to exist somewhere in the country. To this end, Siemens Medical Solutions will set up a programme with the Real Time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance (RODS) Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh for a public health surveillance and biodefence data network.


The goal is to have at least 90 percent of the population in America covered by the HAN network, and to develop better and faster methods of sending out and receiving messages using the Internet between the federal government, state and local public health offices, emergency responders and hospitals. The Siemens pilot programme will support this initiative by communicating electronically available health data to RODS and demonstrating the value of receiving, processing, and submitting real time health care information to public health agencies for early detection of trends and potential bioterrorist outbreaks.

The project will link hospital emergency departments, leverage Siemens position as the premier Application Service Provider (ASP) in health care, and serve as a pilot for a broader federal and state network to strengthen the country's defences against potential biological attacks. Siemens will serve as the pipeline for emergency department, privacy-protected patient data from its customers' Pinnacle Health System in Harrisburg, and Holy Redeemer Hospital and Medical Center in Meadowbrook, both in Pennsylvania, which will be sent to the RODS Laboratory to be stored, analysed, and made available to regional public health agencies.

Noted Dr. Erich Reinhardt, president and CEO of Siemens Medical Solutions: "We believe this pilot programme will exemplify what the United States Government and the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to do, and will prove the benefits of an ASP model for public health, that is, an external entity providing application services to State and local health departments. Because we are obtaining data that hospitals are already collecting electronically, the impact on their internal operations will be minimal, and the data pipeline can be created quickly, at a reasonable cost, and within the constraints of HIPAA."

RODS is also compliant with the CDC's National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS), which is designed to facilitate the collection, management, transmission, analysis, and dissemination of surveillance data. Michael M. Wagner, M.D., Ph.D., director of the RODS Laboratory stated: "With more than 30 years of experience, Siemens is one of the health industry's leaders in information technology solutions. Their ASP model provides a unique resource for public health surveillance and we are pleased to be working with them."

Siemens currently provides health information solutions to more than 5000 health care organisations worldwide and runs remote applications for over 1000 customers. Siemens is also a member of the eHealth Initiative (eHI), a non-profit consortium of more than 60 leading health care organisations that provide the hardware and software used in a majority of America's hospitals and many of the nation's clinical laboratories, managed care organisations, physicians' offices, and public health agencies.

eHI recently initiated a collaborative effort with the CDC to bolster the public health infrastructure and improve the nation's preparedness and response to a potential large-scale bioterrorism event, by leveraging current health care information systems infrastructure and existing data streams to enhance public health data collection, surveillance, and detection processes. Working with the CDC and state and local public health agencies, members of eHI will help identify critical data elements and develop strategies to rapidly, effectively capture and transmit critical data on diseases of public health importance in standard formats.

Leslie Versweyveld

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