Communicable disease outbreaks can spread rapidly, causing enormous losses to individual health, national economies and social well-being. Therefore, communicable disease surveillance is essential for protecting public health. In Qatar, electronic reporting from primary health centres was proposed as a means of improving disease notification, replacing a paper-based method of reporting (via internal mail, facsimile, email or telephone), which has disadvantages and requires active cooperation and engagement of staff. This study is a predescriptive and postdescriptive analysis, which compared disease notifications received from electronic and paper-based systems during 3-month evaluation periods (quarter 2 in 2016 and quarter 2 in 2018 for paper-based and electronic reporting, respectively) in terms of comprehensiveness, timeliness and completeness. For the 23 notifiable diseases included in this study, approximately twice as many notifications were received through the electronic reporting system as from the paper-based reporting system, demonstrating it is more comprehensive. An overall increase in notifications is likely to have a positive public health impact in Qatar. 100% of electronic notifications were received in a timely manner, compared with 28% for paper-based notifications. Findings of the study show that electronic reporting presents a revolutionary opportunity to advance public health surveillance. It is recommended that electronic reporting be rolled out more widely to improve the completeness, stability and representativeness of the national public health surveillance system in Qatar as well as other countries.
- communicable diseases
- electronic notification
- public health surveillance
- primary health
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Contributors MAS conceptualised the study and drafted the paper. HAM, CK, HAQ, KE, AMI and BV contributed to it. DA and AMI undertook data analysis. All authors were involved in interpreting the data, critically reviewing and agreeing the final version of the paper.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.