New York City develops health alert network

A new health alert system could be a shot in the arm for New York City's health care workers.

For the city's smallpox vaccination campaign begun earlier this year, many health care workers in the city's hospitals volunteered to receive the vaccination. They would be the first responders if a smallpox outbreak occurred.

But because the disease was eradicated in the 1970s, most health care workers have never had experience with a smallpox vaccination.

The vaccination requires 15 injections with a bifurcated needle, said Ed Carubis, CIO of New York City's Health and Mental Hygiene Department. 'You have to go back a week later to have the spot checked,' he said. 'If the vaccination was successful, it looks really horrible. If it wasn't, it doesn't look like anything at all.'

Health Department officials posted a digital photo of a successful vaccination on the new Health Alert Network Web portal so health care workers can see what one looks like.

HAN is part of an overarching Web portal for New York's medical-provider community, 'a portal within a portal,' said Ed Carubis, CIO of New York City's Health and Mental Hygiene Department.

The network has more than 500 registered participants, including emergency room directors, hospital workers in the city's smallpox vaccination program and other health care workers. HAN participants must receive an invitation from the Health Department to register, but this restriction will ease once the network's portal security framework is in place, Carubis said.

HAN has three main functions, Carubis said.

  • It sends alerts to health care providers. When users sign up with HAN, they leave contact information, such as e-mail address, office phone or cell phone number. If an emergency arises, HAN will broadcast an alert message to that point of contact and tell the user to go to HAN for more information.

  • It is an online research library of information on public health topics such as West Nile virus, smallpox, anthrax and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

  • It's a peer-to-peer collaboration system. HAN provides bulletin board discussions, online chats and other conferencing mechanisms, Carubis said.

  • Dimension Data of Reston, Va., provided systems integration for HAN. The network uses Microsoft SharePoint portal management software, Interwise collaborative software from Interwise Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., and bulletin board tools from Akiva of Carlsbad, Calif.

    About the Author

    Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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