Using Secure Web Services to Visualize Poison Center Data for Nationwide Biosurveillance: A Case Study


  • Thomas G Savel CDC
  • Alvin Bronstein
  • William Duck
  • M. Barry Rhodes
  • Brian Lee
  • John Stinn
  • Katherine Worthen



Objectives: Real-time surveillance systems are valuable for timely response to public health emergencies. It has been challenging to leverage existing surveillance systems in state and local communities, and, using a centralized architecture, add new data sources and analytical capacity. Because this centralized model has proven to be difficult to maintain and enhance, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been examining the ability to use a federated model based on a secure web services architecture, with data stewardship remaining with the data provider. Methods: As a case study for this approach, the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the CDC extended an existing data warehouse via a secure web service, and shared aggregate clinical effects and case counts data by geographic region and time period. To visualize these data, CDC developed a web browser-based interface, Quicksilver, which leveraged the Google Maps API and Flot, a javascript plotting library. Results: Two iterations of the NPDS web service were completed in 12 weeks. The visualization client, Quicksilver, was developed in four months. Discussion: This implementation of web services combined with a visualization client represents incremental positive progress in transitioning national data sources like BioSense and NPDS to a federated data exchange model. Conclusion: Quicksilver effectively demonstrates how the use of secure web services in conjunction with a lightweight, rapidly deployed visualization client can easily integrate isolated data sources for biosurveillance.

Author Biographies

Thomas G Savel, CDC

Acting Director, Division of Informatics Research and Development US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Alvin Bronstein

Dr. Bronstein is the Medical Director of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center (RMPC). He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO. As medical director, he actively participates in the RMPC?s medical toxicology training program and oversees the toxicology training for the Center?s poison information specialists and providers. He is the lead physician in the RMPC surveillance effort. Dr. Bronstein has authored a number of articles and book chapters in the field of medical toxicology and written several textbooks on hazardous materials. His research interests include creating new methods to deliver poison information. He is the principal investigator of a novel approach to providing drug identification using interactive voice response technology (IVR). He is the chairman of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) National Poison Data System (NPDS) Steering Committee in charge of system development. He is board certified in medical toxicology, emergency medicine, and family medicine. Born in Paducah, KY, he received an AB degree from Washington University in St. Louis and attended Medical School at the University of Kentucky. He completed a family medical residency at the University of Alabama and completed a medical toxicology fellowship at the RMPC and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

William Duck

William Duck is a Health Scientist with the CDC.

M. Barry Rhodes

Dr. Barry Rhodes has served at CDC for over 16 years as a Computer Scientist. Prior to his CDC appointment, Dr. Rhodes was a faculty member in the Department of Physics at Clark Atlanta University and received his doctorate in Computational Physics from Emory University in 1983.

Brian Lee

Brian is a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting. where he specializes in Service Oriented Architecture and Enterprise Architecture in the Federal Strategy & Operations Solutions Group. He is currently advising multiple large projects at CDC in the effective use of services. He has experience in multiple organizations leading teams of geographically dispersed architects and developers in designing and implementing an SOA framework for application development. He has a bachelor's of business administration, majoring in computer information systems, from Georgia State University and has held positions as Chief Technology Officer and as principal architect at several firms. He is a Certified Enterprise Architect and has multiple certifications from Sun and Microsoft.

John Stinn

John Stinn is a Senior Manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP. John is a graduate of the 2001 class of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?s Public Health Informatics Fellowship. He has worked with international, federal, state, and local public health agencies on major public health informatics initiatives, including the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS), the Public Health Information Network (PHIN), the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN), and the Health Alert Network (HAN). John has also managed and served as an advisor for several public health informatics strategic planning efforts with the US CDC, the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection and in several US state public health agencies. His educational background is in Marine Affairs and Policy, specializing in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the assessment of economic and human health impacts of marine toxin diseases.

Katherine Worthen

Katherine is a Practice Director with over 25 years of experience overseeing software development projects. She is the Project Manager of the National Poison Data System.




How to Cite

Savel, T. G., Bronstein, A., Duck, W., Rhodes, M. B., Lee, B., Stinn, J., & Worthen, K. (2010). Using Secure Web Services to Visualize Poison Center Data for Nationwide Biosurveillance: A Case Study. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 2(1).



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