Using Technology to Control Disease Outbreaks: Highlights From the CSTE Annual Conference

by Christine Hockett, Senior Epidemiologist, Consilience Software, A Xerox Company

I’m back! Anchorage, Alaska is stunning – but the scenic views weren’t the only highlight from my time at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) annual conference. This year’s CSTE conference was full of educational sessions and workshops, where I participated in several thought-provoking and informative discussions with local and state health department professionals from across the country.

In an earlier blog post about CSTE, I talked about the importance of this conference for establishing and maintaining effective detection and response to disease outbreaks. We covered the most important issues facing public health today, like drug-resistant bacteria, emerging infectious diseases and shared best practices for handling disease outbreaks.

During Consilience’s panel session, representatives from health departments presented real life examples of how they’re utilizing their Maven case management solution. One of the great things about Maven is the flexibility and scalability of the technology – so hearing how other jurisdictions manage outbreaks with Maven can help give programs new ideas for a more effective response.

Session attendees heard from four panel members from health departments in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Hawaii and South Dakota, who offered a range of perspectives on how Maven is helping departments handle outbreaks and what specific functionalities they use in their states.

For example, in Massachusetts and North Carolina, Maven is used to handle outbreaks of measles, norovirus, and flu, among others. Maven allows for less reliance on manual tracking on paper, which presents obstacles in timeliness, data quality, communication, and case duplication. Instead, Maven streamlines the entire process, improving timeliness and reaction time, and eliminates the entry process, reducing the chance of duplicate calls and investigations.

In South Dakota, online survey functionality helped to contain and manage a norovirus outbreak at an RV park campground and resort. Through an online survey, the South Dakota Department of Health created question packages that were electronically sent to citizens affected by the outbreak. Citizens could log on from anywhere, at any time, to securely answer the questions providing vital information to the investigation, containment and management of the outbreak.

With this year’s CSTE conference behind us, we’re continuing to look ahead at all of the possibilities Maven offers health departments to improve the identification and investigation process of disease outbreaks to keep citizens healthier and safer.

Did you attend CSTE this year? What was your favorite part of this year’s conference? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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