21st Winter Olympic Public Health Surveillance: A Case of Technology-Enabled Knowledge Translation in Practice

With the H1N1 Pandemic still fresh in our minds, the Winter Olympics have zeroed the spotlight on Vancouver. With 70,000 visitors per day, 5,000 athletes and staff, 1,350 Paralympic athletes, 10,000 media, 25,000 volunteers, and 8,000 security personnel, a single disease outbreak can become catastrophic. Historically, mass gatherings have been particularly sensitive to vector outbreaks. The 2006 Turin games, for example, were no exception – respiratory syndrome with fever (influenza) and gastroenteritis (Norovirus) were the most common pathologies.1 Unlike Turin however, Vancouver is ready. We are at the forefront of Technology-Enabled Knowledge Translation (TEKT) in practice.

TEKT refers to the strategic deployment of modern information and communication technologies to help individuals and organizations accelerate the incorporation of research and new knowledge into clinical practice.2 For the Olympics, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is responsible for deploying one of the most intricate public health surveillance systems ever designed for a planned mass gathering.3 As a medium of dissemination and performance evaluation by the system, technology is the modus operandi in the integration of fourteen data sources which allow for continuous assessment, monitoring, and public health response. Table 1 (below) displays the data sources, including both existing and enhanced data resources created for solely for Olympic surveillance by VCH. The intricacy doesn’t stop there however. All components of data collection are also congruent with the Olympic Movement Medical Code,4 the document which describes the rules and medical practices for Olympians and prevents positive doping tests resulting from medical treatment.

Table 1: Surveillance System Components

Existing Data Data Enhancements
  1. Emergency Room Data
  2. Reportable Communicable Diseases
  3. Laboratory data
  4. Facility Outbreaks
  5. Foodborne illness complaints
  6. Sentinel physician surveillance for influenza-like illness
  7. Poison control data
  8. BC Nurse Line data (coded by nature and location of call)
  9. BC Ambulance dispatch data
  10. Police dispatch centre data
  1. Expanded ER Data
  2. VANOC Polyclinic Diagnostic Code Data
  3. Hotel medical service data
  4. Mountain injury surveillance data
  5. Illicit drug overdose data from Insite, BCAAS, St. Paul’s Hospital, and the BC coroner’s office.


February 25th, 2010 | Articles by me, e-Public Health, English | 1 comment

Cisco’s 2010 eHealth Predictions

The first decade of the 21st century is here! For the agog-types, it is the infamous year of the White Tiger and the 21st Winter Olympic Games, which will take place in our beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. With this first article of the year, I won’t focus on your New Year resolutions or the gadgets that can help you keep them in check; rather, I follow Nostradamus in predicting a few changes to the fields of eHealth and Technology-Enabled Knowledge Translation.

Last year we saw the Netbook, e-Book Reader, and App Phone (short for mobile phone with a downloadable application) proliferate. This year, my Bluetooth LED ball shows four transformations coming:

1. F(Web 2.0 AND Medicine)PubMed. We will see the first exponential growth of peer-review literature relating to Web 2.0 in medicine. Figures 1 and 2 (below) were featured in a recent article published last year by a fellow tweep and emerging technologies librarian @pfanderson.1 I believe the data speaks for itself.

2. Augmented reality (AR) comes to your pocket. If you are wondering what AR is all about, don’t worry, chances are that you are not alone. In essence, it is the nexus of physical and sensory worlds with web-based information. For example, AED4EU is an application created by a friend of mine, @zorg20, which allows anyone who finds a person in cardiac arrest to point their phone and while using the camera; GPS and Internet data merge on the screen (Figure 3) to help you can find the closest sparky (Automatic External Defibrillator). This will ultimately decrease the time-to-shock ratio where there is a 10% decrease in the likelihood of resuscitation with each passing minute.

3. Embedded sensors get cheap! Wearable sensors like the fitbit allow you to track sleep, exercise, calories burned, and wirelessly upload your data to the net automagically; best of all, they cost less than a hundred dollars. Thus, we will see a ubiquity of sensors come into the market that allow you to track of your dog, wife, and kids’ lives to the step. We will also see an increase in the number of clinical trials that use these gadgets.

4. Social media policies come out of the closet. 2010 will bifurcate our social media use. Health regions, universities, and professional health-related associations will do one of two: A) run away and deem Facebook/Twitter the source of all evil; respectively “banning” the use of Social Media almost completely; or B) they will train their staff to use social media in a responsible manner and allow an enhanced patient-clinician relationship. McMaster University’s new Medical School policy is an early example of this is where, any medical student or staff who uploads a picture to a social media site in an inappropriate environment, or that, which propagates alcohol use, will automatically be placed on academic probation.

As the old Mexican saying states: “We will see, said the blind man.” In the meantime, have a very successful New Year!


Works Cited:

[1] Anderson et al. An Online and Social Media Training Curricula to Facilitate Bench-to-Bedside Information Transfer. Positioning the Profession: the Tenth International Congress on Medical Librarianship (2009) pp. 1-11.


I would like to thank @roboethics for reviewing the first few drafts of this post.

Editorial Note:

This article was written for the column “The 2.0 Factor: Musings of a Hyperconnected world” in the TICr.

February 25th, 2010 | Articles by me, e-Public Health, English | 1 comment