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Internet-based remote health self-checker symptom data as an adjuvant to a national syndromic surveillance system

  • A. J. ELLIOT (a1), E. O. KARA (a1), P. LOVERIDGE (a1), Z. BAWA (a1), R. A. MORBEY (a1), M. MOTH (a2) (a3), S. LARGE (a3) and G. E. SMITH (a1)...

Summary

Syndromic surveillance is an innovative surveillance tool used to support national surveillance programmes. Recent advances in the use of internet-based health data have demonstrated the potential usefulness of these health data; however, there have been limited studies comparing these innovative health data to existing established syndromic surveillance systems. We conducted a retrospective observational study to assess the usefulness of a national internet-based ‘symptom checker’ service for use as a syndromic surveillance system. NHS Direct online data were extracted for 1 August 2012 to 1 July 2013; a time-series analysis on the symptom categories self-reported by online users was undertaken and compared to existing telehealth syndromic data. There were 3·37 million online users of the internet-based self-checker compared to 1·43 million callers to the telephone triage health service. There was a good correlation between the online and telephone triage data for a number of syndromic indicators including cold/flu, difficulty breathing and eye problems; however, online data appeared to provide additional early warning over telephone triage health data. This assessment has illustrated some potential benefit of using internet-based symptom-checker data and provides the basis for further investigating how these data can be incorporated into national syndromic surveillance programmes.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

* Author for correspondence: Dr A. J. Elliot, Real-time Syndromic Surveillance Team, Public Health England, Birmingham B3 2PW, UK. (Email: alex.elliot@phe.gov.uk)

References

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Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection
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