As part of the Health Officers Association of California (HOAC) Project Collaboration Research Initiative (PCRI ), Interwise was selected as the conferencing and collaborative platform. PCRI is a three-year project that will determine how real-time collaboration technologies can enable California's physician health officers to respond rapidly and effectively to infectious disease outbreaks -- especially disease threats of pandemic proportion. According to the HOAC Web site "this Collaboration Initiative builds on off-the-shelf capabilities that have been developed to provide desk-top collaboration tools for the US Defense and Intelligence Communities."

"To arrive at a definitive diagnosis of any disease, its pathogen must be identified. But even before this identification occurs, a complex process involving many different kinds of data must be initiated in order to provide crucial guidance to the public, the hospital community and first responders," said Roger Rosenberg, HOAC's project Manager for the PCRI. "The process for this can be accelerated with a 'virtual meeting space' where health officers, public lab personnel and others can instantly share data such as micrographs, x-rays and written information in a free-flowing informal way."

The HOAC has assembled a unique team of health professionals, high technology companies, government agencies, research centers and non-profit research affiliates to develop the secure, collaborative, virtual private network. The project will also include drills and exercises dealing with bio-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and natural public health disasters. The situations will involve both single and multiple jurisdictional public health departments, hospitals, first responders, emergency operations centers and others. The project will rapidly expand to all of California's 61 public health departments (58 counties and 3 cities). Interwise will be integrated within modular web portals for each county as well as an overall portal for the entire state.

"To mount an effective response to a widespread, serious public health threat, health officers need to collaborate in real time," added Rosenberg. "PCRI will allow officers to rapidly and securely share biometric, environmental, GIS, and other visual data, collaborate on strategies, policies and communications, as well as update one another continuously as a situation unfolds. The end result will be improved and more timely diagnosis, consultation and treatment of citizens during mass outbreaks."

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer