Rhode Island using e-prescribing network to track swine flu outbreaks
R.I. Governor Donald L. Carcieri announced that the state was set to initiate a new system for tracking swine flu outbreaks through the use of Surescripts' e-prescribing network during a Monday press conference in Warwick, R.I.

By the end of September, 100 percent of pharmacies in Rhode Island had been connected for e-prescribing. The Surescipts network, partnered with the pharmacies, will provide the Rhode Island Department of Health with information regarding where there may be an increase in prescriptions of Tamiflu or similar antiviral medications, as well as the affected age group.

Participating pharmacies in this system, which is programmed to exclude personal information, include CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid, Stop & Shop and Walgreens.

“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 R.I. Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD. “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.”

Rhode Island health officials hope to track disease on a more extensive level on this system than the Sentinel system used during prior flu outbreaks, which consisted of 25 practices across the state that would report any disease outbreaks to the Department of Health. Moreover, it is believed that discrepancies between reported outbreaks and actual confirmed cases of the disease will be easier to identify.

E-prescribing first came into practice in Rhode Island through the Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI),  founded by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in 2001. 

E-prescribing has "tremendous value for monitoring and protecting public health, and for increasing efficiencies in our healthcare system," said Carcieri.