Epidemic surveillance under open source

Epidemic surveillance under open source

Summary: Utah will soon implement a new infectious disease reporting system licensed under the Affero GPL.

TOPICS: Open Source, Health

TriSano cover imageUtah will soon implement a new infectious disease reporting system licensed under the Affero GPL.

The software, dubbed TriSano, was created by the Collaborative Software Initiative, launched by former OSDL head Stuart Cohen.

Cohen called this an example of the CSI's business model, something he has been working with since leaving OSDL in 2006.

"We bring entities together with common problems and we then build the software for them at a fraction of the cost, deliver it, and they get the network effect as they roll it out."

In this case the target is much broader than Utah. Cohen said the project has been presented to state public health offices and the CDC.

The project is a member of Open Health Tools. Cohen  noted that the AGPL is the most aggressive of the open source licenses. It requires that improvements in the online system also be donated back, which is why Google does not use it.

CSI corporate development officer Laurie Williams Lori Williams-Peters said that TriSano replaces a system of faxes which now must be sent when doctors diagnose specific conditions.

"Reporting now will be a byproduct" of data entry, she said, meaning officials will be able to detect patterns in real time, and respond much more quickly to outbreaks than before.

But this was no easy hack, she noted.

"There are about 75 reportable diseases in the state of Utah," Williams said. "Each form is different. Each disease is different. In some cases it's reported just in the state, in others it might be reported to the CDC.

"The long answer is each report must feel a little different. And whether or not the patient is known differs. So the information that is put in changes, and what's reported on changes."

For that reason TriSano is written in Ruby. Rather than building 75 forms, TriSano built a form-builder. The system can be maintained by doctors, regulators, or through TriSano in the form of Software as a Service.

What it means is a faster, flexible, less-expensive system for creating and maintaining infectious disease reports. Utah will train its people first, CSI will seek to roll it out nationwide, and everyone (including you) will reap the benefits.


Topics: Open Source, Health

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