Rhode Island uses e-prescribing data to track flu cases

November 12, 2009

The state of Rhode Island has launched a new system for tracking H1N1 flu that uses prescribing data provided by pharmacies throughout the state via a secure electronic link. Enabled by the state's e-prescribing and the digital healthcare infrastructure, the system is believed to be the first of its kind.

The state of Rhode Island has launched a new system for tracking H1N1 flu that uses prescribing data provided by pharmacies throughout the state via a secure electronic link. Enabled by the state’s e-prescribing and the digital healthcare infrastructure, the system is believed to be the first of its kind.

“E-prescribing has been a priority of my administration because of its potential to improve patient safety, increase quality of care, and reduce healthcare costs. It has tremendous value for monitoring and protecting public health and for increasing efficiencies in our healthcare system,” Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said in a prepared statement. “The growth of e-prescribing has been an important component of our overall effort to promote the electronic exchange of health information.”

The Surescripts e-prescribing network used by the state, as well as the state's pharmacies, are now providing epidemiologists at the Rhode Island Department of Health with weekly updates of prescription data from pharmacies throughout the state. The epidemiologists can use the data-from which personally indentifying information has been removed-to see where possible spikes in prescriptions of oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu) or other antiviral medications may have occurred.

“Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to work with Surescripts to use prescription data in the aggregate for disease surveillance, specifically monitoring and tracking the use of antiviral data during this H1N1 pandemic,” said David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, director of health. “This provides another important tool for the state’s public health officials to look at trends related to the course, severity, and treatment of the H1N1 pandemic.”