Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Telematics: a new tool for epidemiological surveillance of diarrhoeal diseases in the Aquitaine sentinel network.

British Medical Journal 1990; 300 doi: (Published 24 February 1990) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1990;300:514
  1. S Maurice,
  2. F Mégraud,
  3. C Vivares,
  4. F Dabis,
  5. C Toulouse,
  6. B Tilly,
  7. R Salamon
  1. Université de Bordeaux II, INSERM U330, France.


    A sentinel health information system using telematics and a network of general practitioners was set up in Aquitaine in south western France in 1986. Among the health problems under surveillance was acute diarrhoea. Data for each patient who fulfilled the usual case definition for acute diarrhoea were reported by general practitioners using home terminals (Minitels) connected to a central computer by telephone. Over one year 2234 cases of diarrhoea were reported, the incidence varying from 0.8 to 1.5 cases per doctor per week. Seasonal variations in incidence were observed, with peaks in the winter and in the summer. Only 379 (17%) episodes of diarrhoea were classified as severe, and these patients consulted their general practitioners earlier than patients whose diarrhoea was less severe. Foreign travel was rarely found in the patients' histories, but clusters of cases were found in communities (4.6%) and in families (22.3%). The advantages of this system were easy reporting and immediate feedback, but it was difficult to extrapolate the data, and the system was inadequate for intervening in outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease. Our knowledge of diarrhoeal diseases in south west France improved.