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NewsForge: OpenEMed Helps Detect Epidemics--And Bioterrorism

Jan 16, 2003, 02:30 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robin Miller)

"'OpenEmed is a distributed healthcare information system built around the OMG distributed object specifications and the HL7 (and other) data standards and is written in Java for platform portability,' says the first sentence on the project's home page. Its objective is to aggregate data from clinics, emergency rooms, pharmacies, and individual physicians so that epidemics or bioterrorism attacks can be rapidly spotted and, hopefully, stopped before they affect large numbers of people.

"'The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a DoD agency, funded this work as part of their biodefense network,' says project leader David Forslund.

"To demonstrate the kind of situation where OpenEmed can be of value, Forslund points out a well-documented 1993 Cryptosporidium outbreak in Madison, Wisconsin that reportedly made 403,000 people ill and killed 100. Forslund says, 'The occurrence was detected by a pharmacist who noticed people buying a lot of Imodium at his store. Before that, there were a lot of calls about diarrhea [to local doctors and hospitals]. If people had connected these, the disease could have been detected earlier...'"

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