Detecting Unanticipated Increases in Emergency Department Chief Complaint Keywords

Ramona Lall, Alison Levin-Rector, Robert Mathes, Don Weiss


The chief complaint (CC) text field is a rich source of information, but its current use for syndromic surveillance is limited to a fixed set of syndromes defined a priori using keywords. To identify unanticipated sudden increases in word frequency, we developed a simple method that compares the frequency of every word in the CC text field on a given day against the average frequency of the same word during a baseline period. This could prove useful for situational awareness during routine surveillance and emergencies.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *