Database derived from an electronic medical record-based surveillance network of US emergency department patients with acute respiratory illness

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC medical informatics and decision making








Electronic medical records; Emergency medicine; Epidemiology; SARS-CoV-2


BACKGROUND: For surveillance of episodic illness, the emergency department (ED) represents one of the largest interfaces for generalizable data about segments of the US public experiencing a need for unscheduled care. This protocol manuscript describes the development and operation of a national network linking symptom, clinical, laboratory and disposition data that provides a public database dedicated to the surveillance of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) in EDs. METHODS: The Respiratory Virus Laboratory Emergency Department Network Surveillance (RESP-LENS) network includes 26 academic investigators, from 24 sites, with 91 hospitals, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to survey viral infections. All data originate from electronic medical records (EMRs) accessed by structured query language (SQL) coding. Each Tuesday, data are imported into the standard data form for ARI visits that occurred the prior week (termed the index file); outcomes at 30 days and ED volume are also recorded. Up to 325 data fields can be populated for each case. Data are transferred from sites into an encrypted Google Cloud Platform, then programmatically checked for compliance, parsed, and aggregated into a central database housed on a second cloud platform prior to transfer to CDC. RESULTS: As of August, 2023, the network has reported data on over 870,000 ARI cases selected from approximately 5.2 million ED encounters. Post-contracting challenges to network execution have included local shifts in testing policies and platforms, delays in ICD-10 coding to detect ARI cases, and site-level personnel turnover. The network is addressing these challenges and is poised to begin streaming weekly data for dissemination. CONCLUSIONS: The RESP-LENS network provides a weekly updated database that is a public health resource to survey the epidemiology, viral causes, and outcomes of ED patients with acute respiratory infections.


Emergency Medicine