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National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS)

The National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) is a secure online framework that allows healthcare professionals and government agencies to communicate about disease patterns and coordinate national response to outbreaks. The NEDSS framework includes a set of specifications that includes software, hardware, databases and data format standards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in charge of maintaining and expanding NEDSS at the center of the United States Public Health Information Network (PHIN). The CDC mandates that hospitals, clinics and state health agencies all adopt NEDSS standards so that the speed, accuracy, standardization and viability of data about diseases is improved.

NEDSS was created to integrate and replace existing CDC surveillance systems, including the National Electronic Telecommunications System for Surveillance (NETSS), HIV/AIDS reporting systems, vaccination programs, and tracking systems for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Historically, such systems have been isolated from one another due to differing data standards, legacy systems, patient privacy concerns and a lack of tools for information exchange. According to the CDC, more than 100 different systems were used to transmit reports to the federal agency. Before the introduction of NEDSS, state health departments received most public health data by mail and then entered the data on the documents into computer databases. Such data transfer often occurred long after disease incidences were first reported. Many diseases were underreported, inadequately documented or inaccurately recorded.

To address these issues, NEDSS designers created a Base System as a platform that state agencies and health care providers could use to integrate public health surveillance systems data, process in a secure environment. This Base System is made up for five components:

  1. Web-based modules that allow easy online entry and management of data sets, including demographic and disease data
  2. A Web application server called Silverstream that supports these Web-based modules
  3. An integrated database management system
  4. Messaging software that allows electronic data interchange between state agencies and the CDC or state laboratories
  5. Intranet-based authentication and authorization for security that is fully compliant with HIPAA regulations.

When NEDSS is fully implemented across the United States, public health professionals and government agencies will be able to quickly recognize and respond in real-time to disease outbreaks or bioterrorism attacks. 

Learn more about IT:
The Centers for Disease Control maintains a NEDSS homepage.
The Department of Public Health in Utah is working with the Collaborative Software Initiative to develop open source NEDSS software.
> Todd R. Weiss reported that nation-wide NEDSS implementation was still unfinished 2008.

This was last updated in May 2010

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