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Public Health Registries: Syndromic Data

Syndromic surveillance (SyS) aggregates near real-time emergency department (ED) visit data to track crucial public health developments, such as disease spread, drug overdoses, and weather incidents. Within one day, more than 95% of Wisconsin EDs transmit de-identified syndromic data from every patient visit to the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) network at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health (DPH).

Wisconsin syndromic data improvements

While SyS serves a useful purpose, its usefulness is not fully realized. Currently, SyS only tracks de-identified ED visit data. This gives a single snapshot in time that is not linked with other datasets. The resulting disconnectedness severely limits public health’s ability to study health and disease data outside the ED visit context and across time.

Wisconsin proposes to augment and strengthen the usefulness of data collected and reported to Wisconsin by adding patient identifiable information (PII). Doing so will bolster DPH's ability to serve public health interests by advancing the awareness, response, and study of Wisconsin public health topics. To do this, syndromic data must be collected at DPH and de-identified before sending to the CDC.

The Wisconsin Messaging Guide for Syndromic Surveillance, P-02231 is the technical guide which gives specifications and business requirements for submitting syndromic data to Wisconsin.

Collecting identifiable data

Wisconsin is collecting identifiable data, such as patient name, address, and medical record number because:

  • Linking ambulance run, hospital discharge, poison center, and other datasets will provide better context and timeliness to crucial public health incidents.
  • Following patients and conditions over time will help epidemiologists better understand cause, treatment, environment, and many other factors of the health care story.
  • Linking syndromic data with in-house systems like Public Health Analysis Visualization and Reporting (PHAVR) and the Customer Hub will allow program areas to have a better picture of health in Wisconsin.

Note: Identifiable data elements will only be used to link data behind the scenes. These elements cannot be searched. Reports will never have names, addresses, medical record numbers or any other protected health information or personally identifiable information.

Integrating SyS data into the public health data infrastructure

By adding identifiable data to SyS, Wisconsin will have a stronger data infrastructure that benefits the entire continuum of health care, from enhanced knowledge, better health outcomes, and increased integration with our health care partners to ultimately improve the health for Wisconsinites. Specific examples include:

  • The opioid crisis group will better track and address drug overdoses by connecting real-time patient updates with ambulance run data. Integrated data will help local public health officials address crises more quickly and completely.
  • DPH staff who monitor patients with drug-resistant organisms will alert facilities before patients arrive. Advanced notice will help facilities prepare for incoming patients and provide more time for evaluation and correct treatment selection.
  • Health care facilities will be better prepared to address violence and injury prevention, occupational and environmental health, chronic conditions, and mental health programs by including a new, near real-time data stream connected with current data.

The Wisconsin Messaging Guide for Syndromic Surveillance, P-02231 is the technical guide which gives specifications and business requirements for submitting syndromic data to Wisconsin.

For more information or questions, please email the Wisconsin Syndromic Surveillance team.

Last revised June 8, 2022