In today’s mobile world where infectious diseases can spread across borders fast, it is important that physicians report contagious diseases to state authorities, who in turn can analyze and detect if an outbreak has actually occurred, judging on data coming from a number of hospitals and clinics. Using basic email and PDA software, Temple University researchers have conducted a study in Philadelphia to attempt to increase reporting compliance, and the results look promising.
The study involved clinicians associated with all hospitals in Philadelphia County, Pa. The study comprised a 24-week baseline period (Jan. 18, 2004-July 3, 2004) and a 24-week intervention period (Jan. 16, 2005-July 2, 2005). Researchers selected five hospitals for the intervention group, while the control group consisted of the 23 other hospitals located within Philadelphia County.
The intervention group received e-mails directing readers to a web site* that listed all reportable conditions with instructions on how to report to authorities. The site also allowed doctors to download a program onto their handheld devices that would make this information easily accessible and help facilitate reporting to the Department of Public Health.
During the intervention period, the e-mails were distributed three times, each reaching in excess of 16,500 individuals. There were a total of 886 visits to the web site, 207 downloads of a poster of reportable diseases, 130 downloads of the handheld device reporting program, and 122 downloads of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health case report form. From the baseline to the intervention period, there was a mean increase of 5.6 reports in the intervention group and a mean decrease of 3.0 reports in the control group.
“The difference between the two groups was significant and supported the protocol as a way to increase reporting among clinicians,” Ward said. “Using the internet had not yet been studied. Past studies have examined costly, time-intensive and unsustainable methods to increase reporting such as newsletters and mailed reminders.”
In contrast to other methods studied, Ward and his colleagues believe their method is affordable and sustainable, with a format that’s easily understood by today’s internet-savvy clinician. They estimate that only 26 hours of person-time and $350 were used in developing the internet page, handheld computer program and e-mail memorandums, not including the cost of establishing and maintaining the underlying hospital web site.
Press release: Simple online methods increase physician disease reporting