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Monitoring COVID-19 in Belgian general practice: A tool for syndromic surveillance based on electronic health records.

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 may initially manifest as flu-like symptoms. As such, general practitioners (GPs) will likely to play an important role in monitoring the pandemic through syndromic surveillance. OBJECTIVES: To present a COVID-19 syndromic surveillance tool in Belgian general practices. METHODS: We performed a nationwide observational prospective study in Belgian general practices. The surveillance tool extracted the daily entries of diagnostic codes for COVID-19 and associated conditions (suspected or confirmed COVID-19, acute respiratory infection and influenza-like illness) from electronic medical records. We calculated the 7-day rolling average for these diagnoses and compared them with data from two other Belgian population-based sources (laboratory-confirmed new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions for COVID-19), using time series analysis. We also collected data from users and stakeholders about the syndromic surveillance tool and performed a thematic analysis. RESULTS: 4773 out of 11,935 practising GPs in Belgium participated in the study. The curve of contacts for suspected COVID-19 followed a similar trend compared with the curves of the official data sources: laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions but with a 10-day delay for the latter. Data were quickly available and useful for decision making, but some technical and methodological components can be improved, such as a greater standardisation between EMR software developers. CONCLUSION: The syndromic surveillance tool for COVID-19 in primary care provides rapidly available data useful in all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic to support data-driven decision-making. Potential enhancements were identified for a prospective surveillance tool.
Journal: The European Journal of General Practice
ISSN: 1381-4788
Issue: 1
Volume: 30
Pages: 2293699
Publication year:2024