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The value of any public health surveillance program is derived from the ways in which data are managed and used to improve the public's health. Although birth defects surveillance programs vary in their case volume, budgets, staff, and objectives, the capacity to operate efficiently and maximize resources remains critical to long-term survival. The development of a fully-integrated relational database management system (DBMS) can enrich a surveillance program's data and improve efficiency. To build upon the Florida Birth Defects Registry--a statewide registry relying solely on linkage of administrative datasets and unconfirmed diagnosis codes-the Florida Department of Health provided funding to the University of South Florida to develop and pilot an enhanced surveillance system in targeted areas with a more comprehensive approach to case identification and diagnosis confirmation. To manage operational and administrative complexities, a DBMS was developed, capable of managing transmission of project data from multiple sources, tracking abstractor time during record reviews, offering tools for defect coding and case classification, and providing reports to DBMS users. Since its inception, the DBMS has been used as part of our surveillance projects to guide the receipt of over 200 case lists and review of 12,924 fetuses and infants (with associated maternal records) suspected of having selected birth defects in over 90 birthing and transfer facilities in Florida. The DBMS has provided both anticipated and unexpected benefits. Automation of the processes for managing incoming case lists has reduced clerical workload considerably, while improving accuracy of working lists for field abstraction. Data quality has improved through more effective use of internal edits and comparisons with values for other data elements, while simultaneously increasing abstractor efficiency in completion of case abstraction. We anticipate continual enhancement to the DBMS in the future. While we have focused on enhancing the capacity of our DBMS for birth defects surveillance, many of the tools and approaches we have developed translate directly to other public health and clinical registries.


Jason L Salemi, Kimberlea W Hauser, Jean Paul Tanner, Diana Sampat, Jane A Correia, Sharon M Watkins, Russell S Kirby. Developing a database management system to support birth defects surveillance in Florida. Journal of registry management. 2010;37(1):10-5; quiz 38-9

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PMID: 20795564

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