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May 2, 2005
Press Release: GCS Research Delivers Syndromic Surveillance System for Montana

GCS Research Delivers Web-based Syndromic Surveillance Information System for School of Pharmacy, The University of Montana:

"ESRI and Microsoft Technology Integration Allows Public Health Officials to
Monitor Emergent Public Health Epidemiology"

GCS Research, a geospatial IT company, is pleased to announce the successful completion and release of a web-based Syndromic Surveillance Information System (SSIS) for the University of Montana School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Science Program. The system is called "OTC Drug Web" and was funded by a US Center for Disease Control bioterrorism grant and administered by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The School of Pharmacy SSIS allows participating public health officials across Montana to monitor the sales of key indicator Over-the-Counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals. By tracking the sales and location of these commonly used drugs, public health officials are able to determine abnormal sale volumes and use this information to monitor emergent epidemiological events of concern.

GCS Research worked closely with Intralogix, another Montana-based company, to design the SSIS geodatabase structure and automate stored procedures for Microsoft SQL Server, allowing for daily updates of OTC sales data from participating Montana pharmacies. The geospatial characteristics of the OTC sales data are managed using ESRI ArcSDE 9.0 in conjunction with SQL Server. ESRI's ArcIMS 9.0 is utilized to map and visualize the OTC sales data by Montana county, and abnormal sale volumes are thematically mapped according to predefined syndromic thresholds. If a particular OTC drug category exceeds a rolling average threshold, participating public health officials are alerted to a potential health problem. This system is username and password protected, allowing for secure access.

GCS Research designed the web-based interface using ASP.NET and integrated a variety of database-driven search tools to query and visualize OTC sales. OTC sales can be examined by date ranges, drug categories, and county geography. A series of SQL Server-driven charting and graphing techniques are also incorporated, allowing users of the SSIS system to interact with the OTC data in multiple formats simultaneously.

"We are pleased that OTC Drug Web project is a success. We enjoyed the collaboration with the Intralogix and the University of Montana Pharmacy professionals on this project," states Alex Philp, President of GCS Research. "The most gratifying element is to see public health officials using a live, operational system to monitor potential public health problems. This project incorporates the best of ESRI and Microsoft technology to get the job done."

The scope of the Syndromic Surveillance Information System will continue to evolve. A pharmaceutical XML document schema is being explored as a way of providing additional reporting mechanisms for Montana public health officials. Leveraging Microsoft technology for standards-based document reporting, GCS Research and Intralogix are designing next-generation geospatially enabled SQL Server 2005 applications to leverage real-time database access and visualization techniques for location-based web services.

These advances will allow location intelligence to be intregated directly in the Microsoft Office platform as a set of web services, combining the power of ESRI ArcObjects with the .NET Framework's (version 2.0) Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). It is anticipated that public health officials, pharmacists, and other key decision-makers will access the "OTC Drug Web" as .NET web services designed for Microsoft Windows - code-named Longhorn. In the very near future, documents, charts, graphs, and maps as web services can and will be consumed, viewable, and editable directly within the suite of Office applications.