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Syndromic Surveillance

What is syndromic surveillance?

Syndromic surveillance is the collection of health related data, that is received as early as possible when illness begins to provide overall population-based awareness of the spread of disease in Illinois. Many types of data are considered syndromic surveillance, including absenteeism, over-the-counter and prescription medication sales, reports to poison control, and Emergency Medical Service ambulance data, to name a few. In Illinois, syndromic surveillance specifically focuses on visits to hospitals.

  • IDPH collects data for each Emergency Department visit to all 185 acute care hospitals in IL.
  • The data are submitted from IDPH to the CDC’s BioSense Platform for access and analysis by health departments.
  • Beginning in 2018, inpatient and some urgent care visits will be included in the data, along with Cook County Department of Public Health data, as early as 2005.
  • This data include demographics (age, gender, race, and ethnicity), time and date of visit, location of the visit and residential ZIP code. Geographic information will allocate visits by both Patient Location (based on the patient’s ZIP code) and Facility Location (based on the location where the visit occurred).
  • The most important data elements are the chief complaint and the diagnoses as the reason for each visit and sometimes the triage note. A chief complaint is a short phrase, preferably in the patient’s own words that describes the reason for the visit. However, the chief compliant may be from a drop down or pick list in the hospital record, or may lack sufficient data.
  • The earliest data collected by IDPH is January 2013, with complete coverage increasing over time. Most facilities send data in near real-time and are accessible within hours of the visit presents to the ED, however some facilities delay sending data by 24-48 hours.
  • IDPH requires hospitals to report ED visits for syndromic surveillance under the authority of the Communicable Disease Act and as required by the Department by the Hospitals Licensing Rules.


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