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Perceived usefulness of a distributed community-based syndromic surveillance system: a pilot qualitative evaluation study

Author(s): Reeder Blaine | Revere Debra | Olson Donald | Lober William

Journal: BMC Research Notes
ISSN 1756-0500

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 187;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background We conducted a pilot utility evaluation and information needs assessment of the Distribute Project at the 2010 Washington State Public Health Association (WSPHA) Joint Conference. Distribute is a distributed community-based syndromic surveillance system and network for detection of influenza-like illness (ILI). Using qualitative methods, we assessed the perceived usefulness of the Distribute system and explored areas for improvement. Nine state and local public health professionals participated in a focus group (n = 6) and in semi-structured interviews (n = 3). Field notes were taken, summarized and analyzed. Findings Several emergent themes that contribute to the perceived usefulness of system data and the Distribute system were identified: 1) Standardization: a common ILI syndrome definition; 2) Regional Comparability: views that support county-by-county comparisons of syndromic surveillance data; 3) Completeness: complete data for all expected data at a given time; 4) Coverage: data coverage of all jurisdictions in WA state; 5) Context: metadata incorporated into the views to provide context for graphed data; 6) Trusted Data: verification that information is valid and timely; and 7) Customization: the ability to customize views as necessary. As a result of the focus group, a new county level health jurisdiction expressed interest in contributing data to the Distribute system. Conclusion The resulting themes from this study can be used to guide future information design efforts for the Distribute system and other syndromic surveillance systems. In addition, this study demonstrates the benefits of conducting a low cost, qualitative evaluation at a professional conference.
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