The primary software packages used in the FCDN include VTX-VALU for the videotext applications, ORACLE for data base management, MATHEMATICA for devising graphics tools, and SAS for statistical analyses.(*1) Details of the organization of the system are provided elsewhere .
Data collected by the surveillance operators of the FCDN are entered through the user terminals via videotext data entry applications.
Three different examples of surveillance activities conducted with the FCDN are described below.
Figure 1 shows the overall results of surveillance for measles in the FCDN; note marked seasonality, with peaks in late spring .
The FCDN system has shown a continuous trend for more HIV testing in the "general population," beyond the bounds of the usual risk groups, which in 1987 accounted for almost all use of HIV tests.
Since the FCDN system began operating, sentinel GPs have reported approximately 140,000 cases of ILI.
Specific surveys have also been done through the FCDN network, in collaboration with the National Health Insurance System, to evaluate vaccine coverage, because most vaccines are administrated by GPs.
The FCDN system includes three electronic surveillance bulletins corresponding to the three groups of surveillance operators.
Dissemination to all French GPs--not just sentinel GPs--is essential not only because GPs are both the source and the target of the public health problems monitored by the FCDN but also because it provides the opportunity to recruit new sentinel physicians into the surveillance system.
As a result of an agreement with Le Quotidien du Medecin, the journal most widely read by GPs, a summary of results by FCDN is published weekly.
In the past 8 years, the FCDN has proved that computer monitoring can be a useful and efficient tool for public health surveillance.