Syndromic Surveillance Program (SyS)

In Alaska, syndromic surveillance alerts hospital staff and the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services (AKDHSS) to potential disease outbreaks and unexpected levels of activity, including food poisoning, respiratory disease, drug overdoses. Additionally, it creates a way to monitor trends in homelessness, self-harm, substance use, and other behavioral health conditions.

Tribal Health Organizations (THOs) participating in syndromic surveillance gain access to their facility-level data, and also have the potential to contribute valuable information to the Tribal health system overall.

What is Syndromic Surveillance?

Syndromic surveillance is the near real-time monitoring of symptoms of concern in data from records of medical visits. An advantage over other surveillance methods, the syndromic surveillance system in Alaska can monitor unstructured free-text in the medical record in addition to coded diagnoses. The information is processed through powerful statistical software, allowing systems to alert the users to unusual activity that is impossible to track through diagnostic codes alone.

How does syndromic surveillance work in Alaska?

  1. People seek treatment in a medical facility.
  2. Secure data from the visit flows to Alaska’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) and then to the Alaska Department of Health, Division of Public Health (DPH).
  3. DPH processes the data through the National Syndromic Surveillance Program’s BioSense platform.*
  4. The state uses the ESSENCE (Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community Based Epidemics) analytic platform to examine potential health concerns; the facility also has access to this platform.

How our program works

Through training and technical assistance, the Alaska Native Epidemiology Center helps Tribal health partners in Alaska use syndromic surveillance to identify and respond to outbreaks and to inform operations and planning.

Currently six THOs participate in the state’s program and receive support from the Alaska Native Epidemiology Center. This support includes weekly reports and training. We are currently building a Community of Practice for syndromic surveillance users and expanding the coverage to outpatient clinics in remote areas.

Contact us for additional information and resources. 

Useful links:

• Tribal Syndromic Surveillance Overview (PDF 393 KB)
• Alaska’s Syndromic Surveillance Program
• National Syndromic Surveillance Program

*The BioSense Platform “is a secure integrated electronic health information system that hosts standardized analytic tools and facilitates collaborative processes. The BioSense Platform is a product of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”.

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