Quicker Dissemination of Vital Information
SAS® Makes Health Data More Accessible for IPH
The Scientific Institute of Public Health (IPH) collects, analyzes, and publishes Belgian vital statistics. It also carries out epidemiology research. Its activities involve numerous information flows and vast quantities of data.
With the help of SAS, the dissemination and visualization of health-related information has been greatly improved. Institute personnel as well as outside laboratories, hospitals, public authorities, and even individual doctors can now rapidly obtain the critical data they need through the Institute's Web site.
They can make up their own statistical reports in a user-friendly manner. Obtaining clear and correct health data has become far easier. It has also maximized the time Institute personnel can spend on their own research and interpretation of data.
What is the most frequent cause of death among Belgian men? Is some sort of epidemic about to break out? Do Flemish men live longer than their Walloon counterparts? How many women died of lung cancer last year?
The IPH Epidemiology Department provides the answers to these as well as a wide variety of other health-related questions. They present useful information for universities and hospitals. They also provide the government with information to evaluate and adjust national health policy.
The Institute bases its answers partly on data which the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) provides. This includes raw data on the population, mortality and birth. This mass of vital data is aggregated, collated, and then classified by age, sex, time period, and district and then put into a single database. In addition, IPH relies on a network of 120 laboratories throughout Belgium which investigate blood samples for the presence of certain bacteria and viruses. IPH research results help detect and predict the outbreak of certain epidemics.
Readily Accessible Information
The application offers Institute personnel the capability of pinpointing precise figures: for instance, how many Belgian men died in motor vehicle accidents. One of the main advantages of SPMA is that it does not require any preliminary knowledge of statistics. Users need only choose the particular parameters, such as year, cause of death, statistical procedures and location. The result is that anyone can easily generate a highly accurate statistical report that tabulates the requested information in a clear and easily accessible manner.
Faster Dissemination of Information
It's a similar story when it comes to the dissemination of new data. Previously, users received new information days or weeks after the Institute collected it. Now it is available immediately. "SPMA-Internet is directly linked to our information server. Any new input is therefore instantly available on the Web site," Sabine explains.
SAS Makes Life a Little Easier
One result is that both the statistical package and the data can be placed on a single server, increasing the speed of finding the desired information. But there is much more to this story. "We also chose SAS for their user-friendliness," Sabine adds. "With SAS, the visual presentation is more attractive and this gives the information even greater impact. Info can also be more easily exported to Excel spreadsheets. All these features make life a little easier for all of our users."
Extranet for More Delicate Information
This is one reason why IPH opted for an extranet. "Only clinical researchers, participants or public health authorities have the right to login," Yves says. "All of our epidemic research results are password protected."
These extranet users enjoy the same benefits as those offered by the basic SPMA-Internet application. "They receive new data instantly and can make up their own reports by choosing a specific disease, bacteria, or virus, as well as a year and a geographical level," explains Yves. "The extranet contains menus similar to those that are available on our Web site. In other words, users can always find the information quickly and in a user-friendly manner."
More Time for Research
Researchers also benefit from it. "We now have more time to spend on the analysis and interpretation of health-related data," explains Sabine. "Now that the distribution of information has improved, we don't have to contact the users anymore to inform them on the availability of new data. Moreover, the time we spend on creating static reports has decreased dramatically. People are now able to create their own reports."
A Perfectly Scalable Solution
"This could also be useful for other parties such as the government," Yves adds. "They can use trend analysis to evaluate their health policy. For instance, when analysis shows that the number of salmonella infections has decreased, this may indicate that the government's actions paid off."
IPH is also planning to improve the data collection process. "In the future, we want to offer laboratories the opportunity to enter their data directly onto the extranet in our database," points out Yves. "This also opens the door for more frequent updates, perhaps even on a daily basis. But for now, they still have to mail us the information at least once a week."
A Closer Look at Health in Belgium
Its work can have profound effects on many diverse fields and disciplines, from microbiology and pharmaco-bromatology to epidemiology and toxicology.
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Researcher, Department of Epidemiology, IPH
The Scientific Institute of Public Health (IPH)
Make vital statistics more accessible.
SAS enables content delivery for faster dissemination and greater in-depth study.
“In other words, users can always find the information quickly and in a user-friendly manner.”
researcher, Department of Epidemiology, IPH