We can have it all: Improved surveillance outcomes and decreased personnel costs associated with electronic reportable disease surveillance, North Carolina, 2010
OBJECTIVES: We assessed the timeliness, accuracy, and cost of a new electronic disease surveillance system at the local health department level. We describe practices associated with lower cost and better surveillance timeliness and accuracy. METHODS: Interviews conducted May through August 2010 with local health department (LHD) staff at a simple random sample of 30 of 100 North Carolina counties provided information on surveillance practices and costs; we used surveillance system data to calculate timeliness and accuracy. We identified LHDs with best timeliness and accuracy and used these categories to compare surveillance practices and costs. RESULTS: Local health departments in the top tertiles for surveillance timeliness and accuracy had a lower cost per case reported than LHDs with lower timeliness and accuracy ($71 and $124 per case reported, respectively; P = .03). Best surveillance practices fell into 2 domains: efficient use of the electronic surveillance system and use of surveillance data for local evaluation and program management. CONCLUSIONS: Timely and accurate surveillance can be achieved in the setting of restricted funding experienced by many LHDs. Adopting best surveillance practices may improve both efficiency and public health outcomes.