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Northern Ireland Nationwide Flu Surveillance

9th April 2011

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The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Business Services Organisation in Northern Ireland is rolling out a nationwide flu surveillance solution from Apollo Medical Systems. After Apollo displayed its ability to meet strict timescales it was awarded the contract to provide a daily extraction tool with a centralised data reporting mechanism and data repository.

The software will run using Apollo SQL Suite, which is already installed in all Northern Ireland GP practices, and which will extract information on the number of consultations carried out with those displaying flu or flu like symptoms and respiratory problems. It will also collect information on the number of antiviral, antibiotics and vaccines prescribed. Data will be extracted on an anonymised basis, encrypted and securely transferred and stored in a central server hosted by the BSO. Before the one-year contract was awarded to Apollo, Northern Ireland had no surveillance in place.

This system is designed so that the department can plan, monitor and deliver services on the ground. The data will be confined to a minimal number of users within the Department so that the misinterpretation of data is limited. Apollo has agreements with the four GP System Suppliers in Northern Ireland, EMIS, iSoft, Merlock and In Practice systems, to ensure that the query is automated and that it does not interfere with back-ups. All processes have been ratified by the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee and the committee sat in on each meeting and rubber stamped the roll-out. In any project where patient data is extracted, consent and confidentiality is a cornerstone of the Apollo extract process.