NorthShore University HealthSystem launches tool to track ailments


Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem has made an innovative illness-tracking tool available to hundreds of system physicians.

The tool — called What's Going Around — compiles data that physicians record in their patients' EMRs including symptoms, diagnoses, test results and the latitude and longitude of the patients' home addresses. Then, the tool uses algorithms and geocoding to analyze the data and generate graphs and maps to track the epidemiology of influenza-like conditions such as strep throat, pertussis, gastroenteritis and pediatric asthma.

Despite information being used from thousands of patients to create the graphics in the tool, patients are not individually identifiable.

Using the tool, physicians will be able to identify disease trends in their communities using real-time data, an important ability, according to Ari Robicsek, MD, vice president of clinical informatics at NorthShore.

"Doctors who are well-informed about the local incidence of diseases can make better recommendations to their patients," said Dr. Robicsek. "If a physician knows the flu is 'going around,' they may counsel their patient with a flu-like illness that he doesn't need an antibiotic (which won't help for the flu), sparing cost and side effects, and reducing the chances of antibiotic resistance developing."

What's Going Around is the result of a collaboration between NorthShore's health IT experts and the system's Center for Biomedical Research Informatics. The tool was tested and trialed for a year before being made available to NorthShore's physicians.


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