Open Source Software Tool Helps Governments Monitor COVID-19

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Posted 04-08-20

Proposed by American charities

By Gérard Krause and Bianca Sondage

The Epidemic Response Surveillance and Analysis System, or SORMAS, is an open source mobile and web application that enables health workers to notify health services of new cases of diseases with epidemic potential, to detect epidemics and manage responses to epidemics. It’s what the digital health industry calls a “global good,” adaptable, interoperable open source software designed to meet the data and management needs of countries’ health systems. And this is one of many such tools promoted by PATH led Digital square initiative.

SORMAS was developed by the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) together with several international partners during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 as an early warning and management system. As a multi-functional tool, it can be used for case surveillance, laboratory data management, contact tracing and disease detection, all of which contribute to the prevention and management of epidemics. Since its development, SORMAS has been used in response to multiple simultaneous outbreaks of monkey pox, Lassa fever and meningococcal disease.

A new module for COVID-19

With the emergence of COVID-19, HZI quickly developed a virus detection and control module. The Ghana Health Service and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control immediately activated this new module in over 400 districts already using SORMAS, as well as in ports of entry such as airports and ports, covering a population of over 85 million inhabitants. The Nigerian public health service uses SORMAS for epidemiological monitoring and containment. In Nepal, national public health authorities are preparing to deploy SORMAS in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Adoption in countries demonstrates the importance of having options that are flexible and responsive to health crises.

The SORMAS-CoV module contains all disease-specific diagnostic standards, case definitions and containment procedures defined by the World Health Organization. All the procedures are integrated into the new module and compatible with those already present in the SORMAS software. This includes different user roles within public health services, such as local informants, epidemiologists, laboratory technicians, and point-of-entry agents. The module enables the targeted collection of relevant epidemiological data on the individual case, including hospitalization, symptoms and people with whom they have been in contact. In addition, the task management function, a force of SORMAS, facilitates the coordinated action of surveillance staff in the response to the epidemic.

SORMAS in action

The SORMAS tool provides the information health workers need to identify and slow the spread of disease. Armed with details of a patient’s symptoms, lab results, and hospitalization, surveillance staff can prevent the spread of an epidemic from reaching the general population.

Identification and follow-up of new cases
SORMAS supports the rapid identification and notification of suspected cases. If a patient arrives at the hospital with possible signs of COVID-19, health workers or surveillance staff are invited by SORMAS to ask questions about symptoms specific to the virus, such as fever, cough, and disease. shortness of breath. A health worker can then create a new case in the system and note the hospital admission and quarantine procedures that were used.

Lab results
Through SORMAS, laboratory staff are alerted when a sample is sent for disease verification, and are reminded to notify the hospital of the test results.

Contacts search
SORMAS helps in tracking and identifying possible virus transmission. Supervisors can also log people who have come into contact with an infected patient in the system. The system will schedule and document the results of the daily health monitoring of these contacts, which will help disrupt the transmission cycle.

SORMAS plays an extremely important role in the fight against infectious diseases, enabling better information sharing within a country and producing vital information on how and where a disease spreads. Learn more about SORMAS here: www.sormas.org.

This article is adapted from an article on the Digital Square blog. Digital Square is a partnership of the world’s leading digital health experts from over 40 organizations and countries, working together to strengthen digital health systems in emerging economies. This global flagship digital health product is an initiative led by PATH, funded and designed by the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a consortium of other investors.

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