CWmike writes "The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an effort this week to better and more easily track for H1N1 and other seasonal influenza activity throughout the US. The CDC said it is now tracking data on 14 million patients from physician practices and hospitals stored on a database hosted by GE Healthcare. The data is submitted daily from physicians' offices and hospitals that use GE's electronic medical record system. The data is then uploaded to GE Healthcare's Medical Quality Improvement Consortium, a database repository designed with HIPAA-compliance parameters of patient anonymity and best practices, where it can be the subject of medical data queries. The CDC can perform queries to look for flu-like symptoms being reported by physicians, and then disseminate the data for health care providers and local government officials throughout the country, who can alert businesses and others about flu outbreak hot spots. The CDC also hopes its analysis of the data helps it better understand the characteristics of H1N1 outbreaks and to determine who is most at risk for developing complications from the virus. Prior to implementing the new system, the CDC relied heavily on tracking insurance claims data, which could take days or weeks to make its way to the agency's medical staff for analysis. The medical data is normalized so that, for example, reports of hypertension, HTN, and high blood pressure all mean the same thing when a researcher enters a query against the data."
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