A Health Care App to Tackle Disasters

The University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute and Childrens’ Hospital Los Angeles have been working together to build a software tool. Dubbed Pediatric Emergency Decision Support System, or PEDSS, the tool is designed to help medical service providers more effectively plan for, train for, and respond to serious incidents and disasters involving kids.

The project, a part of the Pediatric Disaster Resource and Training Center (PDRTC), has been going on for about eight months.

Dr. Tatyana Ryutov, a research scientist at the USC Information Sciences Institute, is working on the system. Recently, the Institute contacted Joshua Tauberer, the creator of Govtrak.us and the man who maintains a large Resource Description Framework, or RDF , data set of U.S. Census data, about making SPAQRL queries to that data with the PEDSS.

“PEDSS helps hospital disaster-response personnel produce and maintain disaster-response plans that apply best-practice pediatric recommendations to their particular local conditions and requirements,” Dr. Ryutov wrote in an e-mail to SemanticWeb.com.

Specific data on community demographics, geography and neighboring industries — as well as onsite staff, facility size and available supplies — could enable the software to tailor a plan to fit each user institution’s unique preparedness resources and vulnerabilities.

According to the PDRTC Web site, the software would collate the data, produce a list of disaster scenarios most likely to impact the user, and outline the training, supplies and auxiliary services that must be put in place to develop a viable pediatric preparedness plan.

“PEDSS guides users at a facility through collecting and preparing critical information needed for preparing a plan, in the spirit of tax-preparation software such as TurboTax,” she writes. But the biggest technical problem is collecting and representing knowledge. That’s where Tauberer’s census data set could come in handy.

“Currently, demographic data (number of children in four age groups) is entered manually. We want the tool to calculate this information automatically based on a ZIP code. Therefore, we extend the tool to query the RDF census data server to get this information,” Ryutov writes. Currently this is the only server the software queries, but Ryutov says they plan to add calls to other census data servers to improve reliability. Those servers do not have to be RDF databases.

Whether or not the information comes in RDF formats, it’s critical for the project to succeed. According to the PDRTC site, the city’s dense population, industry and high international profile, Los Angeles is at increased risk for pandemic influenza, environmental accident, biochemical incident and terrorist attacks.

“Yet, as of today, health care providers are not prepared to respond when the next crisis occurs. In fact, research indicates that few hospitals throughout the 4,000 square miles of L.A. County have a tested disaster plan to adequately address the community’s needs during a widespread emergency,” the site notes.

It adds that, “Although 2.8 million youngsters live in L.A. County, a recent survey suggests that less than 25 percent of the region’s hospitals and public health emergency agencies have written disaster plans that address the particular needs of children.”

This article originally appeared on SemanticWeb.com

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