30 April 2013

New PHII Course: Registration Open

The Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) is announcing its first ever distance-based course. In partnership with UNC Chapel Hill, PHII's Informatics Academy will be delivering a blended approach course in public health informatics entitled "Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems: 8 Steps to Success." The target audience for this course is mid-level career public health practitioners. PHII specifically seeks teams of 3 people from a health department that are working on an informatics project.

The course will enable participants to: 
  • Provide strategic guidance to your technical teams
  • Effectively communicate your health information system needs
  • Improve processes within your agency for better automation
  • Develop valuable skills for career opportunities in public health informatics
This course will take place over 8 weeks and will be delivered as an instructor-supported distance learning course with interactive webinars, a self-paced eLearning module, and supporting materials and review activities. 

Course Dates: June 16th - August 9th, 2013
Registration Deadline: Friday, June 7th
To register or request more information, please contact informatics.academy@phii.org.

29 April 2013

April Literature Review: Data Visualizations

ISDS’s Research Committee hosted another great Literature Review this month!

The ISDS Literature Review calls take place bi-monthly and are an opportunity to discuss journal articles related to biosurveillance. Recently, the Research Committee decided that, in order to generate more focused discussion, the Literature Review calls would be centered around topics of interest to the community. These topics are decided on by the Research Committee about two months prior to a Literature Review. The group’s Zotero library is then searched for keywords relating to the topic. Finally, these articles are sent to the Research Committee. This month the Literature Review was focused on data visualization.

Call Highlights:
Three articles were summarized and discussed on the April Literature Review Call:
While, the call participants found this to be an interesting presentation of data, there was interest in assessing reactions among public health practitioners (i.e., ‘Would practioners find this visualization useful?’).
  • Hafen RP, Anderson DE, Cleveland WS, et al. Syndromic surveillance: STL for modeling, visualizing, and monitoring disease counts. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. 2009;9(1):21. Here the authors present a statistical outbreak detection method along with visualizations of data decomposition introducing a method they call STL, for “seasonal-trend decomposition procedure based on loess smoothing.” The authors compared the STL-derived detector to EARS methods C1, C2, and C3 and to a regression detector based on general linear modeling (GLM) for small, medium, and large-scale Emergency Department (ED) time series for detection of artificial lognormal signals at 3 levels. The STL method outperformed the EARS methods for in each situation. It outperformed the GLM method significantly for the smaller signals and slightly for the larger ones.
Again, there was general interest in this method from a theoretical viewpoint, but the question of practical utility to public health practitioners was raised. Essentially, would practitioner be interested in this standardized technique? If so, it may be worth developing into a standardized tool.
  • Ji X, Chun S, Geller J. Epidemic Outbreak and Spread Detection System Based on Twitter Data. In: He J, Liu X, Krupinski E, Xu G, eds. Health Information Science.Vol 7231. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg; 2012:152–163. This study discusses the design and utility of the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Epidemics Outbreak and Spread Detection System (EOSDS). EOSDS utilizes publicly available information from Twitter to generate three different visualizations of the space and time dimensions of a spreading epidemic: static map, distribution map, and filter map. As an example of the utility of this system they considered a time period during which there was a severe outbreak of listeria in North America and compared the EOSDS visualizations (collecting a test dataset by specifying the keyword “listeria,” and monitoring the period from “09-26-2011” to “09-28-2011”) and CDC official reports – a gold standard. They reported that all three visualizations showed good correlation with CDC reports and concluded that EOSDS may be used as an effective early warning system.
While there is still debate about the utility of social media for disease surveillance, the study proposed geocoding and visualization methods that may provide information on health events prior to official reports. To see this system in action, visit the EOSDS website.

To view the full article summaries, please visit the ISDS April 2013 Summaries Wiki.
You may also review the Literature Review archives here.

Written by ISDS Program Manager, Tera Reynolds.

17 April 2013

Job Opportunity: Senior Healthcare Data Analyst (“Epidemiologist II”)

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

Application Deadline: May 1, 2013
Detailed Job Posting


The Senior Healthcare Data Analyst will support a 3-year, multi-state collaborative CDC-funded grant developing a surveillance system for adolescents and adults with Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). S/he will be responsible for cleaning, managing, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting of large analytic files from routinely-collected administrative datasets available in Massachusetts, including the All-Payer Claims Database, Vital Records, and Pregnancy to Early Life Longitudinal Data System (PELL), as well as some outside data sets. Most of the data will have to be linked and de-duplicated.

Some new data collection tools will need to be developed by the Senior Analyst, with input from others, to obtain primary retrospective and prospective data from health care providers. The Senior Analyst will make sure that all data-related grant requirements will be met in a timely and responsive fashion. S/he will further assist in disseminating results to develop and improve public health surveillance of individuals with CHDs.


The ideal candidate will:

  • Develop, improve, and evaluate the new public health surveillance system based on grant specifications and requirements.
  • Conduct both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses on the data gathered.
  • Document datasets, program code, and related materials to ensure reproducibility of work, including an audit trail for programming.
  • Interpret, report, present and publish results of analyses.
  • Provide leadership to assist program staff to frame questions and hypotheses suitable for investigation within the grant collaborative.
  • Investigate validity and reliability of the data collected.
  • Participate in planning and collection of additional data as needed.
  • Assist in the preparation and conduct of cost analyses, as deemed feasible.
  • Determine appropriate statistical tests.

Preferably the applicant will have a master’s degree in epidemiology, biostatistics, or related fieldThe ideal candidate will have excellent knowledge of SAS, including macros and SQL. Applicants must have experience working with large administrative datasets, linking data sets, de-duplication of data points, experience with database development, extraction of data from large data sources, creation of analytic databases, as well as experience conducting statistical analyses, including univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses. Excellent oral and written communication and organizational skills, and attention to detail, are a must for this position.

Please direct any questions at Gerlinde Munshi, Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention: gerlinde.munshi@state.ma.us or 617-624-5507; www.mass.gov/dph/birthdefects

The Department of Public Health is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer

08 April 2013

Developing EHR Standards, Improving Public Health: SDC Initiative

Since the inception of electronic health records (EHRs) both developers and users have struggled with balancing EHRs’ ability to gather and provide information with their lack of interoperability. EHRs are effective tools for clinicians who want easy access to health information from patient visits, but at present they have inefficiencies that decrease their usefulness for public health. More specifically, public health would benefit from a template that delivered all EHR information in a consistent manner, with consistent data elements (i.e., patient visit information). Standardization is especially important to data quality as Meaningful Use policies continue to expand the volume of data available to public health.

Structured data has the ability to increase public health’s ability to use, analyze, and disseminate information on events of public health interest or concern. In order to capitalize on this potential, the S&I Framework started the Structured Data Capture (SDC) Initiative in January 2013. Through engaging stakeholders and consulting experts, this initiative aims to develop standards for storing data which could then be passed on to public health within standardized templates. The SDC Initiative specifically aims to create standards for four types of reports: electronic case report form; incident report; surveillance case report; and the collection of patient information used for Determination of Coverage.

The development of these standards is community-driven and open to anyone with interest. The SDC Initiative engages stakeholders in a variety of ways, from weekly meetings to presentations from experts working on data standardization in both research and practice. Development of these standards is participatory and committed members of the initiative can vote on project materials.   

Currently, the initiative is working on finalizing a variety of use cases. Once this step is complete, guidance documents for standards will be created and pilot projects instituted. There is still substantial opportunity for interested ISDS community members to contribute to this project before it wraps up in August 2013. 

The next open teleconference is scheduled for Thursday, April 11, 3:30-5 pm EDT.

For more information on the S&I Framework’s Structured Data Capture Initiative, or to get involved as a member, please visit: http://wiki.siframework.org/Structured+Data+Capture+Charter+and+Members

Written by: Becky Zwickl, MPH, Policy Analyst, ISDS

05 April 2013

IEEE Intelligence and Security Informatics (ISI) 2013: Call for Participation

THEME: Big Data, Emergent Threats and Decision-Making in Security Informatics

Dates/Location: June 4-7, 2013, Seattle, WA, USA

HOST: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Conference website: http://ISIconference2013.org/

Intelligence and Security Informatics (ISI) is an interdisciplinary research field involving researchers in information technologies, computer science, public policy, bioinformatics, and social and behavior studies as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement and intelligence experts, and information technology industry consultants and practitioners to support counterterrorism and homeland security missions of anticipation, interdiction, prevention, preparedness and response to terrorist acts. The annual IEEE International ISI Conference series was started in 2003. The ISI 2013 conference program will feature three main topic streams:
  • Big Data in Security Informatics
  • Emergent Threats
  • Decision-Making in Security Informatics.

Keynote Speakers

  • Dr. Joseph Kielman - Department of Homeland Security
  • Dr. CAPT Dylan Schmorrow/LT David Combs - US Office of the Sec. of Defense
  • Dr. William Burns - Decision Science Research Institute Inc.
  • Dr. Pietro Michelucci - Strategic Analysis, Inc.


  • Evaluating Visualization in Support of Analytical Reasoning and Decision 
  • Making for Cybersecurity. Organizing institution: Innovative Analytics.
  • Signature Discovery for Intelligence and Security. 
  • Organizing institution: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  • Social Media Analytics. Organizing institutions: Boeing, Chinese Academy of
  • Sciences, and the University of Arizona. 


  • Funding Opportunities in Intelligence and Security Informatics. Panelists: Various funding agency program managers.
  • Open Source Indicators and Predicting the News. Panelists: Jason Matheny (IARPA) and Open Source Indicators Program PIs
  • Security and Information Assurance. Panelists: Dewey Houck (Boeing), Nick Multari (PNNL); Steven Yau (ASU)


02 April 2013

AMIA Upcoming Webinar - Immunization Decision Support

ISDS would like to share an upcoming event hosted by one of our partner organizations, AMIA, regarding Immunization Decision Support from Electronic Health Records. You can learn more about this event and how to register below.

American Medical Informatics Association
Public Health Informatics Webinar Series

Immunization Decision Support

With reporting to Immunization Information Systems (IIS) from Electronic Health Records (EHRs) advancing, it is important to think about how information from EHRs and IIS can work together to provide the most effective immunization decision support. Immunization decision support requires connection across many different systems in many different clinical and public health jurisdictions and represents a leading example of public health decision support in clinical settings. This webinar will consider the kinds of immunization decision support rules needed, decision support use in EHRs and the ways in which IIS’s and EHRs need to connect to support needed transactions.


Stuart T. Weinberg, MD FAAP
Project Director, Outpatient Whiteboard
Technical Director, Immunization Registry Project
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Stuart Myerburg, JD
Health Scientist, Informatics
Immunization Information Systems Support Branch
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Bill Adams, MD
Director of BU-CTSI Clinical Research Informatics
Director of Child Health Informatics,
Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine

April 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM EST

 (There will be a $50 charge for non-member participation)

The last webinar is viewable at:

Data and Informatics Needs of the Recent Fungal Meningitis Events

 AMIA aims to lead the way in transforming health care through trusted science, education, and the practice of informatics. AMIA connects a broad community of professionals and students interested in informatics. AMIA is the bridge for knowledge and collaboration across a continuum, from basic and applied research to the consumer and public health arenas. One of the five domains supported by AMIA is the Public Health Informatics Working Group. Public Health Informatics is the application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, reporting, and health promotion.

01 April 2013

2013 CSTE Annual Conference - Late Breaker Abstracts

On behalf of CSTE, ISDS encourages its members and community to consider submitting late-breaker abstracts to the 2013 CSTE Annual Conference by Friday, April 19th. Information about the late-breaker abstract session and the CSTE Annual Conference can be found here in the below message and on the 2013 CSTE Annual Conference website: http://www.csteconference.org

CSTE is now accepting late-breaker abstracts for the 2013 CSTE Annual Conference in Pasadena, California.  Abstracts must be received no later than Friday, April 19 by 11:59 PM EDT through the online CSTE abstract submission site at http://9nl.it/LateBreakers/

The late-breaker session will be on Wednesday, June 13 at 10:30 am.  Abstracts for this session are highly competitive, as only abstracts containing truly late-breaking research or outbreak or event responses will be considered.  Proposals that are incomplete, late, or submitted in an inappropriate format will not be considered. 

Guidelines for late-breaker abstract submission are available on the CSTE website at http://www.csteconference.org/AC13AbsratctGuidesFINAL2.pdf.

Please contact the CSTE National Office at (770) 458-3811 with any questions related to the abstract submission process.