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Preparation is Key to Success of Epi-X

Epi-X User Support Lead, Amanda Evanson and

Epi-X User Support Lead, Amanda Evanson and "flat Epi" at American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians meeting.

Epi-X users are very busy people. It is sometimes difficult for them to find time to learn a new system, even when there is no pressing emergency. Epi-X staff work to ensure that users make Epi-X part of their normal routine so that when there is an emergency, users know how to use the system and can easily get assistance if they need it. Preparation ensures that users can take full advantage of the communications capabilities that Epi-X provides when they need it most. Every Epi-X staff member helps users to be prepared.

User support staff work with individual users to ensure that each can access Epi-X and be identified in the system according to their public health responsibilities. One benefit of this is that reports can then be quickly targeted to a particular group like all state epidemiologists or state health officers.

Training staff provide in-person and online training (e.g., through webinars). Every year users participate in one or more tests of the system. A typical test involves posting an emergency alert on the secure website. As soon as the alert is posted, users receive an e-mail message instructing them to log onto the website along with telephone calls and pager messages with a similar message. This testing activity provides users with an opportunity to practice responding.

Epi-X Reports Are "Must Read" Emails for Users

Editing staff are available 24/7/365 and assist users with posting reports. Editing staff also regularly work to post other content of interest to users. For example, editors create and post a daily media tracking report of key public health topics in the news that will impact the work of Epi-X users at the state and local level. Though the report can contain unverified news, it provides Epi-X users with information about possible topics that callers to their health departments might raise in any given day.

Amanda Evanson, Epi-X User Support Lead, sees evidence that efforts to make Epi-X part of users’ daily routines are paying off. Evanson says, “The one comment I hear most often from our users is that Epi-X Today (the daily summary of reports posted in each user’s areas of interest) is the first e-mail they read every morning. Many of our users who manage call centers, such as the poison control center directors, have come to rely on the information in the daily Epi-X media tracking report to give their staff a heads up regarding calls they may receive.”

Fun Fact: From March 1 through December 31, 2009, a total of 3,586 reports were posted on Epi-X; of these, 1,900 (53 percent) were related to the H1N1 response.