Power your Surveillance Network with Qolty

Monitor patients remotely for symptoms


Disease surveillance is a global concern. In a world where international trade, migration of humans and animals, and ecological changes take place at a rapid pace, numerous infectious diseases and vectors have pandemic aptitudes. With life-threatening diseases spreading beyond borders, global health security is at risk, especially in developing countries. For instance, infectious viruses like Zika, SARS, and H5N1 have become a pandemic threat, revealing that adequate disease surveillance networks can save lives and economies. To set an example, it’s been documented that an effective surveillance system can decrease the magnitude of a SARS outbreak by one-third and its duration by one month (Mirza et al., 2013).

Disease surveillance networks have the potential to collect vital ecological and medical data and detect diseases in their early stages. A systematic review conducted by Choi and colleagues (2016) revealed that technologies could boost the capacities of standard disease surveillance systems. By integrating digital solutions, local and international networks can enhance rapid communication, engagement, early warning, and research, which will result in decreased disability, mortality, and poverty rates. To answer the newest demands of global health security, platforms like Qolty can help experts build effective surveillance networks and implement technological advancements in both practice and research.

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Disease Surveillance and Digital Solutions

Disease surveillance is essential for human-animal-ecosystem dynamics. Disease surveillance is defined as the ongoing task of collecting, analyzing and reporting data related to emerging infection outbreaks. From the accurate prediction of epidemics to the effective development of action plans, information can be utilized across different areas. One of the main applications surveillance systems have is an early warning, which is the process of informing and connecting individuals, institutions, and governments (Yang, 2017).

By implementing technological solutions into disease surveillance networks, experts can foster detection, prevention, and communication. Also, there’s growing evidence that effective surveillance systems can mitigate costs (Mirza et al., 2013). Note that originally, disease surveillance networks relied on printed reports managed by experts and volunteers, which made the data prone to errors and delays. New digital approaches – such as mobiles apps, wearables, sensors, web platforms, and syndromic surveillance systems – on the other hand, can only improve health outcomes (Global Infectious Disease Surveillance and Detection: Assessing the Challenges – Finding Solutions, Workshop Summary.). Therefore, Qolty enables the successful integration of health technologies to support visibility, coordination, recovery, and prevention of health crises

Conventionally, these assessments were administered through paper and pen method used in combination with pagers or electronic wristwatches (Delespaul et al. 1995). With the advancement in technology, electronic devices (PDA’s), and smartphone apps such as Qolty surpassed the traditional pen and paper technique. The surveys are usually short and completed within 1 to 2 minutes. The items are designed for prompt and easy data collection which usually comprise of open-ended questions, checklists or self-report Likert scales, and visual analog scales (Csikszentmihalyi et al. 2013).

Collection of data: The abundance of medical data worldwide can challenge data collection. Via ongoing monitoring of multiple sources, Qolty enables noise reduction and the automatic extraction of relevant information across web content, RSS feeds, media news, social media platforms (e.g., Twitter), contact rosters, email lists (e.g., ProMed), flight manifests, science records (e.g. OpenMRS), and other sources. Consequently, analytics modules support the analysis of big data and its hidden patterns. In addition, since the human input is essential for the verification of information, users can modify the collaboration settings of their network, invite specialists and witnesses, and allow new entries and feedback. Note that the increased use of mobile phones and apps facilitates data collection and validation across borders – with data being processed in real time and validated at the source. For instance, collaborators can enter data (e.g., number of deaths) via their devices (e.g., in a simple table with a user-friendly calendar).

Search optimization: Information should be processed efficiently. Since most surveillance systems are disease-specific (e.g., swine flu), Qolty can help parties explore a disease, population or region of interest. The implementation of data mining techniques leads to structured and optimized searches. Both symptom and quarantine monitoring are targeted. To set an example, sophisticated analytics, and data mining solutions can improve the information filtering of relevant measures and quests (e.g., bioterrorism). Note that learning algorithms are robust to past processing errors, which improves the future identification of early symptoms, geocoding, and routes of transmission.

Data integration: Data integration is another challenge which effective disease surveillance systems should overcome. Since digital solutions benefit data integration, Qolty can help experts take advantage of the newest information advancements. The system supports the screening, filtering, and integration of relevant information across various users, applications, and sources. The implementation of standard codes, on the other hand, allows users to track, synchronize, and change data from multiple databases (e.g., Excel tables, Google spreadsheets, and JavaScript) in order to support healthcare data exchange and interoperability.

Accuracy and accessibility: Technologies facilitate the collection and the analysis of information. Qolty provides accurate, integrated and validated information, which is monitored and analyzed by specialists 24/7. Data is not only accurate but accessible. The collection of data occurs in real time and can be processed in different languages translated into English, which makes information accessible beyond borders. Daily summary reports are also available. In addition, experts can train applications to process upcoming messages with possible mistakes (e.g., no commas or full stops) without changing user behaviors. Since many people report cases or symptoms via text messages or social media posts, the capability to analyze reports with syntax structures prone to errors becomes vital.

Visualization: Health technologies provide an interactive and engaging interface and software programs. Augmented reality improves visual experience. In fact, visualization, such as maps and reports, is another fundamental aspect Qolty supports. By producing regular graphs and extracting visuals, experts will be able to understand the particular disease of interest and its impact on global health. To be more precise, after collecting and integrating information about disease instances, experts can visualize that data on maps or graphs (according to location, time, duration, etc.). Visuals help parties spot and understand patterns at a glance.

Effective communication: Surveillance systems aim to improve global health. Therefore, communication and transparency become essential. From eyewitness reports to lab tests, Qolty brings people together. Real-time public health surveillance and availability of data (stored electronically and transmitted to the cloud) facilitate global health data exchange. The use of available Internet sources may lead to access to information, which hasn’t been censored by governments. Effective disease surveillance systems enhance communication via social networks, app notifications, emails, and free subscriptions. In addition, open-source tools can overcome literacy, language, and technological barriers. Experts can create apps (based either on built-in tools or new codes) that interact via voice and support VoIP. Note that confidentiality, one of the main principles of research management, is guaranteed.

Action steps: Tech solutions support not only data collection and analysis but real action steps, such as early warning, evaluation of current practices, and vaccines. By enhancing the continuous monitoring of datasets and overcoming potential disease surveillance challenges, Qolty can help experts create a disease surveillance network which supports an active investigation and effective prevention. The process of early detection is achieved through access to data and analysis of abundant demographic and geographic information (including visuals and maps of outbreaks). Proactive monitoring is essential. For example, if a contact shows any symptoms of an infection, findings are tracked to minimize continued disease spread. Analysists can flag events and set alerts to boost actions, as well as provide support and feedback. By using voice, GPS, web platforms, and SMS, experts can create an effective network, improve team communication, and build a response team to support public safety. Such features, including the use of simulations, can benefit activists and human rights organizations.

Digital perspectives: Digital solutions are reshaping global health. Note that, as explained above, the increased use of mobile phones and apps helps people send information, get notifications, and participate in surveys related to disease outbreaks at low infrastructure costs. Low infrastructure costs can benefit regions and economies in need. As a result, Qolty can help experts create a disease surveillance network which follows the One Health approach and embraces the future of digital health and clinical studies (Mackenzie et al., 2013). Note that apps are no longer reserved for programmers. For instance, anyone can build a unique message-based application with a user-friendly API and simple protocol (e.g., HTTP) to respond to crises or outbreaks. Apps are configurable for changing technologies and locations, while at the same time, data can be throttled to minimize potential tension with mobile companies.

Types of Disease Surveillance and Benefits of Active Surveillance

Since the health outcomes of humans, animals, and ecosystems are interconnected, disease surveillance systems can prevent pandemics. The global efforts to improve health outcomes in humans, animals, and ecosystems is known as One Health (Mackenzie et al., 2013). Note that many infectious diseases can spread across species, with 70% being zoonotic. Therefore, disease surveillance systems are designed to support the aims of the One Health approach. Note that surveillance can be classified in different groups according to four criteria. First of all, surveillance systems can vary according to their scope: systems can be divided into death surveillance, event-based surveillance, and syndromic surveillance. Targets also influence surveillance. For instance, surveillance can be community-based, lab-based or health facility-based. Although surveillance supports global health, coverage should be considered. Systems can monitor the whole population, high-risk population, or sentinels. Perhaps one of the most tech-relevant divisions is according to data collection methods: there’s active and passive surveillance. While passive systems rely on clinicians, who may notice a case, in active systems agencies, make outreach and actively search for cases (Yang, 2017).

Although there are different types of surveillance systems with various purposes (e.g., early warning and evaluation of measures across countries), most traditional systems are hierarchical. In any hierarchical system, a clinician spots and reports a case, authorities conduct epidemiological and lab investigation, and governments take actions steps (Morse, 2014), which often is time-consuming and prone to errors. Therefore, advanced platforms like Qolty implement technologies to foster active outreach and improve active surveillance. It’s interesting to mention that both traditional and digital networks rely on four crucial aspects: data collection, characterization, analysis, and dissemination. When it comes to dissemination, information can be a double-edged sword: while it can benefit travelers and locals, go