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Journal Description

JMIR Public Health & Surveillance (JPHS, Editor-in-chief: Travis Sanchez, Emory University/Rollins School of Public Health) is an ESCI, PMC/PubMed- and MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed international multidisciplinary journal with a unique focus on the intersection of innovation and technology in public health, and includes topics like public health informatics, surveillance (surveillance systems and rapid reports), participatory epidemiology, infodemiology and infoveillance, digital disease detection, digital epidemiology, electronic public health interventions, mass media/social media campaigns, health communication, and emerging population health analysis systems and tools. 

JPHS has an international author- and readership and welcomes submissions from around the world.

We publish regular articles, reviews, protocols/system descriptions and viewpoint papers on all aspects of public health, with a focus on innovation and technology in public health. The main themes/topics covered by this journal can be found here.

Apart from publishing traditional public health research and viewpoint papers as well as reports from traditional surveillance systems, JPH was one of the first (if not the only) peer-reviewed journals to publish papers with surveillance or pharmacovigilance data from non-traditional, unstructured big data and text sources such as social media and the Internet (infoveillance, digital disease detection), or reports on novel participatory epidemiology projects, where observations are solicited from the public.  

Among other innovations, JPHS is also dedicated to support rapid open data sharing and rapid open access to surveillance and outbreak data. As one of the novel features we plan to publish rapid or even real-time surveillance reports and open data. The methods and description of the surveillance system may be peer-reviewed and published only once in detail, in a  "baseline report" (in a JMIR Res Protoc or a JMIR Public Health & Surveill paper), and authors then have the possibility to publish data and reports in frequent intervals rapidly and with only minimal additional peer-review (we call this article type "Rapid Surveillance Reports"). JMIR Publications may even work with authors/researchers and developers of selected surveillance systems on APIs for semi-automated reports (e.g. weekly reports to be automatically published in JPHS and indexed in PubMed, based on data-feeds from surveillance systems and minimal narratives and abstracts).

Furthermore, during epidemics and public health emergencies, submissions with critical data will be processed with expedited peer-review to enable publication within days or even in real-time.

We also publish descriptions of open data resources and open source software. Where possible, we can and want to publish or even host the actual software or dataset on the journal website.

 

Recent Articles:

  • TOC image. Source: FlickR; Copyright: FlickR; URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rayinmanila/35828462844; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Use of Health Belief Model–Based Deep Learning Classifiers for COVID-19 Social Media Content to Examine Public Perceptions of Physical Distancing: Model...

    Abstract:

    Background: Public health authorities have been recommending interventions such as physical distancing and face masks, to curtail the transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within the community. Public perceptions toward such interventions should be identified to enable public health authorities to effectively address valid concerns. The Health Belief Model (HBM) has been used to characterize user-generated content from social media during previous outbreaks, with the aim of understanding the health behaviors of the public. Objective: This study is aimed at developing and evaluating deep learning–based text classification models for classifying social media content posted during the COVID-19 outbreak, using the four key constructs of the HBM. We will specifically focus on content related to the physical distancing interventions put forth by public health authorities. We intend to test the model with a real-world case study. Methods: The data set for this study was prepared by analyzing Facebook comments that were posted by the public in response to the COVID-19–related posts of three public health authorities: the Ministry of Health of Singapore (MOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Public Health England. The comments made in the context of physical distancing were manually classified with a Yes/No flag for each of the four HBM constructs: perceived severity, perceived susceptibility, perceived barriers, and perceived benefits. Using a curated data set of 16,752 comments, gated recurrent unit–based recurrent neural network models were trained and validated for text classification. Accuracy and binary cross-entropy loss were used to evaluate the model. Specificity, sensitivity, and balanced accuracy were used to evaluate the classification results in the MOH case study. Results: The HBM text classification models achieved mean accuracy rates of 0.92, 0.95, 0.91, and 0.94 for the constructs of perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, and perceived barriers, respectively. In the case study with MOH Facebook comments, specificity was above 96% for all HBM constructs. Sensitivity was 94.3% and 90.9% for perceived severity and perceived benefits, respectively. In addition, sensitivity was 79.6% and 81.5% for perceived susceptibility and perceived barriers, respectively. The classification models were able to accurately predict trends in the prevalence of the constructs for the time period examined in the case study. Conclusions: The deep learning–based text classifiers developed in this study help to determine public perceptions toward physical distancing, using the four key constructs of HBM. Health officials can make use of the classification model to characterize the health behaviors of the public through the lens of social media. In future studies, we intend to extend the model to study public perceptions of other important interventions by public health authorities.

  • Ka'aba, Makkah. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: https://publichealth.jmir.org/2020/3/e10959; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    The Impact of Receiving Pretravel Health Advice on the Prevention of Hajj-Related Illnesses Among Australian Pilgrims: Cohort Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Pretravel health advice can play a crucial role in improving both travelers’ awareness about disease risk and compliance with preventive measures. General practitioners (GPs) and the internet have been reported internationally to be the main sources of health advice for travelers to non–mass gathering (MG) destinations. However, few studies have attempted to investigate the sources of health advice among travelers to MGs including the Hajj pilgrimage, and none of these studies further investigated the impact of pretravel advice on pilgrims’ health behaviors. Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of the source of pretravel health advice (from GPs and specialized Hajj travel agents) on Hajj pilgrims’ awareness of and compliance with health recommendations, and the incidence of Hajj-associated illnesses. Methods: A prospective cohort study (before and during Hajj) was conducted among Australian pilgrims aged ≥18 years in 2015. Results: A total of 421 pilgrims participated prior to Hajj, and 391 (93%) provided follow-up data during Hajj. All participants obtained pretravel health advice from one or more sources, with Hajj travel agents (46%) and general practitioners (GPs; 40%) the most commonly reported sources. In total, 288 (74%) participants reported Hajj-related symptoms, of which 86% (248/288) were respiratory symptoms. Participants who obtained pretravel health advice from travel agents were more likely to be aware of the official Saudi recommendations (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.1, 95% CI 1.2-3.8; P=.01), receive recommended vaccines before travel (aOR 2.4, 95% CI 1.4-3.9; P=.01), use hand sanitizers including soap (aOR 2.5, 95% CI 1.1-6.1; P=.03), and wash their hands after touching an ill person during Hajj (aOR 2.9, 95% CI 1.1-7.1; P=.01), compared to those who sought advice from GPs. However, neither advice from travel agents nor GPs was associated with a lower incidence of Hajj-related illnesses. Conclusions: Advice from travel agents appeared to be accessed by more travelers than that from GPs, and was associated with an increased likelihood of positive travel health behaviors.

  • Source: freepik; Copyright: pressfoto; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/discussing-treatment-methods-with-colleague_5576471.htm#page=2&query=doctors+research&position=4; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Statistical Issues and Lessons Learned From COVID-19 Clinical Trials With Lopinavir-Ritonavir and Remdesivir

    Abstract:

    Background: Recently, three randomized clinical trials on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatments were completed: one for lopinavir-ritonavir and two for remdesivir. One trial reported that remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery, while the other two showed no benefit of the treatment under investigation. Objective: The aim of this paper is to, from a statistical perspective, identify several key issues in the design and analysis of three COVID-19 trials and reanalyze the data from the cumulative incidence curves in the three trials using more appropriate statistical methods. Methods: The lopinavir-ritonavir trial enrolled 39 additional patients due to insignificant results after the sample size reached the planned number, which led to inflation of the type I error rate. The remdesivir trial of Wang et al failed to reach the planned sample size due to a lack of eligible patients, and the bootstrap method was used to predict the quantity of clinical interest conditionally and unconditionally if the trial had continued to reach the originally planned sample size. Moreover, we used a terminal (or cure) rate model and a model-free metric known as the restricted mean survival time or the restricted mean time to improvement (RMTI) to analyze the reconstructed data. The remdesivir trial of Beigel et al reported the median recovery time of the remdesivir and placebo groups, and the rate ratio for recovery, while both quantities depend on a particular time point representing local information. We use the restricted mean time to recovery (RMTR) as a global and robust measure for efficacy. Results: For the lopinavir-ritonavir trial, with the increase of sample size from 160 to 199, the type I error rate was inflated from 0.05 to 0.071. The difference of RMTIs between the two groups evaluated at day 28 was –1.67 days (95% CI –3.62 to 0.28; P=.09) in favor of lopinavir-ritonavir but not statistically significant. For the remdesivir trial of Wang et al, the difference of RMTIs at day 28 was –0.89 days (95% CI –2.84 to 1.06; P=.37). The planned sample size was 453, yet only 236 patients were enrolled. The conditional prediction shows that the hazard ratio estimates would reach statistical significance if the target sample size had been maintained. For the remdesivir trial of Beigel et al, the difference of RMTRs between the remdesivir and placebo groups at day 30 was –2.7 days (95% CI –4.0 to –1.2; P<.001), confirming the superiority of remdesivir. The difference in the recovery time at the 25th percentile (95% CI –3 to 0; P=.65) was insignificant, while the differences became more statistically significant at larger percentiles. Conclusions: Based on the statistical issues and lessons learned from the recent three clinical trials on COVID-19 treatments, we suggest more appropriate approaches for the design and analysis of ongoing and future COVID-19 trials.

  • Source: Colourbox; Copyright: Proxima Studio; URL: https://www.colourbox.de/bild/gesundheit-keyboard-erkrankung-bild-32012687; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Changes in Health-Risk Behavior, Body Mass Index, Mental Well-Being, and Risk Status Following Participation in a Stepwise Web-Based and Face-to-Face...

    Abstract:

    Background: Recent evidence suggests the effectiveness of stepwise, targeted approaches for the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases with combinations of web-based and face-to-face interventions showing promising results. Objective: This paper reports on 1-year changes in health-risk behaviors, BMI, self-rated health, mental well-being, and risk of disease at 1-year follow-up after participation in a stepwise intervention that targeted persons at high risk of disease and persons with health-risk behavior. To this end, we distinguish between participants who took up the full intervention (web-based plus face-to-face) and those who received only the web-based intervention. Methods: The Early Detection and Prevention (Danish acronym: TOF) pilot study was conducted as a nonrandomized, 1-year follow-up intervention study in two municipalities in the Region of Southern Denmark. A total of 9400 citizens born between 1957 and 1986 (aged 29 to 60 years) were randomly sampled from participating general practitioner (GP) patient-list systems and were invited to take part in the study. Participants were subsequently stratified into risk groups based on their responses to a questionnaire on health-risk behavior and data from their GP’s electronic patient record (EPR) system. All participants received a digital personal health profile with individualized information on current health-risk behavior and targeted advice on relevant health-risk behavior changes. In addition, patients at high risk of disease, as indicated by their digital health profile, were offered a targeted intervention at their GP. Patients who were not deemed at high risk of disease but who exhibited health-risk behaviors were offered a targeted intervention at their municipal health center (MHC). At 1-year follow-up, health-risk behaviors, self-rated health, BMI, and mental well-being were reassessed by questionnaire, and current information on diagnoses and medical treatment was retrieved from the EPRs. Results: Of 598 patients at high risk of disease or with health-risk behavior, 135 took up the targeted intervention at their GP or MHC and 463 received the personal health profile only. From baseline to 1-year follow-up, the number of patients with unhealthy eating habits decreased, mean mental well-being increased, and smoking prevalence decreased in patients who had received the digital personal health profile alone. Among patients who took up the targeted intervention, unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles decreased and significant reductions in mean BMI were observed. At 1-year follow up, no health-risk behaviors were detected among 17.4% of patients who at baseline had exhibited health-risk behaviors or high risk of disease. Conclusions: A stepwise targeted preventive approach using web-based and face-to-face elements may lead to favorable lifestyle changes. Specifically, a web-based approach may improve smoking and eating habits and mental well-being, whereas supplementary face-to-face interventions may be necessary to improve exercise habits and BMI. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02797392; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02797392

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://publichealth.jmir.org/2020/2/e19332/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    COVID-19 Crisis in Jordan: Response, Scenarios, Strategies, and Recommendations

    Abstract:

    As of April 12, 2020, a total of 389 cases of coronavirus disease were confirmed in Jordan. To control this imminent threat, Jordan has enforced public health infection prevention and control measures, called for social distancing, seized all forms of inbound and outbound movement and international travel, and enacted the Defence Law that transferred the authority to the Minister of Defence to work and formulate orders according to the situation. In an effort to support the government in anticipating the requirements of the health system in the upcoming period, an in-depth reflection and examination of different scenarios of the disease spread were developed. This viewpoint suggests different strategies and measures for case detection and contact tracing, clinical management of cases, public health system functioning, and civil society organizations’ contribution. It is necessary to accelerate containment of the disease to protect the economy and to maintain the continuity of some activities to mitigate the subsequent social, economic, and financial impacts. This requires finding a coping mechanism for a period that may be prolonged until laboratories develop a vaccine. Specifically, it is strongly recommended to promote community health awareness toward public health prevention and control measures, increase the efficiency and comprehensiveness of the epidemiological investigation and active and passive surveillance, and employ technology and digital health solutions to track cases and contacts. It is also recommended to increase and expand resources of intensive care units including respirators, increase the capacity and the number of trained health staff in the area of public health and epidemiology, ensure continued provision of essential public health programs, and mobilize the resources of nongovernmental sectors and donors to provide services for refugees and vulnerable populations.

  • Source: Shaniece Criss; Copyright: Shaniece Criss; URL: http://publichealth.jmir.org/2020/3/e17103/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    The Association Between State-Level Racial Attitudes Assessed From Twitter Data and Adverse Birth Outcomes: Observational Study

    Abstract:

    Background: In the United States, racial disparities in birth outcomes persist and have been widening. Interpersonal and structural racism are leading explanations for the continuing racial disparities in birth outcomes, but research to confirm the role of racism and evaluate trends in the impact of racism on health outcomes has been hampered by the challenge of measuring racism. Most research on discrimination relies on self-reported experiences of discrimination, and few studies have examined racial attitudes and bias at the US national level. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the associations between state-level Twitter-derived sentiments related to racial or ethnic minorities and birth outcomes. Methods: We utilized Twitter’s Streaming application programming interface to collect 26,027,740 tweets from June 2015 to December 2017, containing at least one race-related term. Sentiment analysis was performed using support vector machine, a supervised machine learning model. We constructed overall indicators of sentiment toward minorities and sentiment toward race-specific groups. For each year, state-level Twitter-derived sentiment data were merged with birth data for that year. The study participants were women who had singleton births with no congenital abnormalities from 2015 to 2017 and for whom data were available on gestational age (n=9,988,030) or birth weight (n=9,985,402). The main outcomes were low birth weight (birth weight ≤2499 g) and preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks). We estimated the incidence ratios controlling for individual-level maternal characteristics (sociodemographics, prenatal care, and health behaviors) and state-level demographics, using log binomial regression models. Results: The accuracy for identifying negative sentiments on comparing the machine learning model to manually labeled tweets was 91%. Mothers living in states in the highest tertile for negative sentiment tweets referencing racial or ethnic minorities had greater incidences of low birth weight (8% greater, 95% CI 4%-13%) and preterm birth (8% greater, 95% CI 0%-14%) compared with mothers living in states in the lowest tertile. More negative tweets referencing minorities were associated with adverse birth outcomes in the total population, including non-Hispanic white people and racial or ethnic minorities. In stratified subgroup analyses, more negative tweets referencing specific racial or ethnic minority groups (black people, Middle Eastern people, and Muslims) were associated with poor birth outcomes for black people and minorities. Conclusions: A negative social context related to race was associated with poor birth outcomes for racial or ethnic minorities, as well as non-Hispanic white people.

  • Source: freepik; Copyright: tirachardz; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/asian-freelance-business-woman-wearing-protective-mask-using-tablet-working-living-room-from-home-when-social-distancing-stay-home-self-quarantine-time-coronavirus-concept_7685895.htm#page=1&query=asian+person+mask&posit; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    General Model for COVID-19 Spreading With Consideration of Intercity Migration, Insufficient Testing, and Active Intervention: Modeling Study of Pandemic...

    Abstract:

    Background: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began to spread in mid-December 2019 from Wuhan, China, to most provinces in China and over 200 other countries through an active travel network. Limited by the ability of the country or city to perform tests, the officially reported number of confirmed cases is expected to be much smaller than the true number of infected cases. Objective: This study aims to develop a new susceptible-exposed-infected-confirmed-removed (SEICR) model for predicting the spreading progression of COVID-19 with consideration of intercity travel and the difference between the number of confirmed cases and actual infected cases, and to apply the model to provide a realistic prediction for the United States and Japan under different scenarios of active intervention. Methods: The model introduces a new state variable corresponding to the actual number of infected cases, integrates intercity travel data to track the movement of exposed and infected individuals among cities, and allows different levels of active intervention to be considered so that a realistic prediction of the number of infected individuals can be performed. Moreover, the model generates future progression profiles for different levels of intervention by setting the parameters relative to the values found from the data fitting. Results: By fitting the model with the data of the COVID-19 infection cases and the intercity travel data for Japan (January 15 to March 20, 2020) and the United States (February 20 to March 20, 2020), model parameters were found and then used to predict the pandemic progression in 47 regions of Japan and 50 states (plus a federal district) in the United States. The model revealed that, as of March 19, 2020, the number of infected individuals in Japan and the United States could be 20-fold and 5-fold as many as the number of confirmed cases, respectively. The results showed that, without tightening the implementation of active intervention, Japan and the United States will see about 6.55% and 18.2% of the population eventually infected, respectively, and with a drastic 10-fold elevated active intervention, the number of people eventually infected can be reduced by up to 95% in Japan and 70% in the United States. Conclusions: The new SEICR model has revealed the effectiveness of active intervention for controlling the spread of COVID-19. Stepping up active intervention would be more effective for Japan, and raising the level of public vigilance in maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing is comparatively more important for the United States.

  • Source: freepik; Copyright: pressfoto; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/discussing-chest-x-ray_5534956.htm#page=1&query=doctor%20with%20computer&position=39; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    The Oxford Royal College of General Practitioners Clinical Informatics Digital Hub: Protocol to Develop Extended COVID-19 Surveillance and Trial Platforms

    Abstract:

    Background: Routinely recorded primary care data have been used for many years by sentinel networks for surveillance. More recently, real world data have been used for a wider range of research projects to support rapid, inexpensive clinical trials. Because the partial national lockdown in the United Kingdom due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in decreasing community disease incidence, much larger numbers of general practices are needed to deliver effective COVID-19 surveillance and contribute to in-pandemic clinical trials. Objective: The aim of this protocol is to describe the rapid design and development of the Oxford Royal College of General Practitioners Clinical Informatics Digital Hub (ORCHID) and its first two platforms. The Surveillance Platform will provide extended primary care surveillance, while the Trials Platform is a streamlined clinical trials platform that will be integrated into routine primary care practice. Methods: We will apply the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) metadata principles to a new, integrated digital health hub that will extract routinely collected general practice electronic health data for use in clinical trials and provide enhanced communicable disease surveillance. The hub will be findable through membership in Health Data Research UK and European metadata repositories. Accessibility through an online application system will provide access to study-ready data sets or developed custom data sets. Interoperability will be facilitated by fixed linkage to other key sources such as Hospital Episodes Statistics and the Office of National Statistics using pseudonymized data. All semantic descriptors (ie, ontologies) and code used for analysis will be made available to accelerate analyses. We will also make data available using common data models, starting with the US Food and Drug Administration Sentinel and Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership approaches, to facilitate international studies. The Surveillance Platform will provide access to data for health protection and promotion work as authorized through agreements between Oxford, the Royal College of General Practitioners, and Public Health England. All studies using the Trials Platform will go through appropriate ethical and other regulatory approval processes. Results: The hub will be a bottom-up, professionally led network that will provide benefits for member practices, our health service, and the population served. Data will only be used for SQUIRE (surveillance, quality improvement, research, and education) purposes. We have already received positive responses from practices, and the number of practices in the network has doubled to over 1150 since February 2020. COVID-19 surveillance has resulted in tripling of the number of virology sites to 293 (target 300), which has aided the collection of the largest ever weekly total of surveillance swabs in the United Kingdom as well as over 3000 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) serology samples. Practices are recruiting to the PRINCIPLE (Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against COVID-19 In older PeopLE) trial, and these participants will be followed up through ORCHID. These initial outputs demonstrate the feasibility of ORCHID to provide an extended national digital health hub. Conclusions: ORCHID will provide equitable and innovative use of big data through a professionally led national primary care network and the application of FAIR principles. The secure data hub will host routinely collected general practice data linked to other key health care repositories for clinical trials and support enhanced in situ surveillance without always requiring large volume data extracts. ORCHID will support rapid data extraction, analysis, and dissemination with the aim of improving future research and development in general practice to positively impact patient care.

  • Untitled. Source: Freepik; Copyright: freepik; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/white-pills-falling-out-bottle_3376635.htm; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Online Conversation Monitoring to Understand the Opioid Epidemic: Epidemiological Surveillance Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Between 2016 and 2017, the national mortality rate involving opioids continued its escalation; opioid deaths rose from 42,249 to 47,600, bringing the public health crisis to a new height. Considering that 69% of adults in the United States use online social media sites, a resource that builds a more complete understanding of prescription drug misuse and abuse could supplement traditional surveillance instruments. The Food and Drug Administration has identified 5 key risks and consequences of opioid drugs—misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. Identifying posts that discuss these key risks could lead to novel information that is not typically captured by traditional surveillance systems. Objective: The goal of this study was to describe the trends of online posts (frequency over time) involving abuse, misuse, addiction, overdose, and death in the United States and to describe the types of websites that host these discussions. Internet posts that mentioned fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or oxymorphone were examined. Methods: Posts that did not refer to personal experiences were removed, after which 3.1 million posts remained. A stratified sample of 61,000 was selected. Unstructured data were classified into 5 key risks by manually coding for key outcomes of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. Sampling probabilities of the coded posts were used to estimate the total post volume for each key risk. Results: Addiction and misuse were the two most commonly discussed key risks for hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. For fentanyl, overdose and death were the most discussed key risks. Fentanyl had the highest estimated number of misuse-, overdose-, and death-related mentions (41,808, 42,659, and 94,169, respectively). Oxycodone had the highest estimated number of abuse- and addiction-related mentions (3548 and 12,679, respectively). The estimated volume of online posts for fentanyl increased by more than 10-fold in late 2017 and 2018. The odds of discussing fentanyl overdose (odds ratios [OR] 4.32, 95% CI 2.43-7.66) and death (OR 5.05, 95% CI 3.10-8.21) were higher for social media, while the odds of discussing fentanyl abuse (OR 0.10, 95% CI 0.04-0.22) and addiction (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.15-0.38) were higher for blogs and forums. Conclusions: Of the 5 FDA-defined key risks, fentanyl overdose and death has dominated discussion in recent years, while discussion of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and oxymorphone has decreased. As drug-related deaths continue to increase, an understanding of the motivations, circumstances, and consequences of drug abuse would assist in developing policy responses. Furthermore, content was notably different based on media origin, and studies that exclusively use either social media sites (such as Twitter) or blogs and forums could miss important content. This study sets out sustainable, ongoing methodology for surveilling internet postings regarding these drugs.

  • Source: freepik; Copyright: freepik; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/woman-wearing-surgical-face-mask-working-from-home_7329290.htm; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Suitability and Sufficiency of Telehealth Clinician-Observed, Participant-Collected Samples for SARS-CoV-2 Testing: The iCollect Cohort Pilot Study

    Abstract:

    Background: The severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic calls for expanded opportunities for testing, including novel testing strategies such as home-collected specimens. Objective: We aimed to understand whether oropharyngeal swab (OPS), saliva, and dried blood spot (DBS) specimens collected by participants at home and mailed to a laboratory were sufficient for use in diagnostic and serology tests of SARS-CoV-2. Methods: Eligible participants consented online and were mailed a participant-collection kit to support collection of three specimens for SARS-CoV-2 testing: saliva, OPS, and DBS. Participants performed the specimen collection procedures during a telehealth video appointment while clinical observers watched and documented the suitability of the collection. The biological sufficiency of the specimens for detection of SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and serology testing was assessed by laboratorians using visual inspection and quantification of the nucleic acid contents of the samples by ribonuclease P (RNase P) measurements. Results: Of the enrolled participants,153/159 (96.2%) returned their kits, which were included in this analysis. All these participants attended their video appointments. Clinical observers assessed that of the samples collected, 147/153 (96.1%) of the saliva samples, 146/151 (96.7%) of the oropharyngeal samples, and 135/145 (93.1%) of the DBS samples were of sufficient quality for submission for laboratory testing; 100% of the OPS samples and 98% of the saliva samples had cycle threshold values for RNase P <30, indicating that the samples contained sufficient nucleic acid for RNA-PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2. Conclusions: These pilot data indicate that most participant-collected OPS, saliva, and DBS specimens are suitable and sufficient for testing for SARS-CoV-2 RNA and serology. Clinical observers rated the collection of specimens as suitable for testing, and visual and quantitative laboratory assessment indicated that the specimens were biologically sufficient. These data support the utility of participant-collected and mailed-in specimens for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

  • Untitled. Source: iStock by Getty Images; Copyright: filadendron; URL: https://www.istockphoto.com/ca/photo/video-call-with-doctor-gm1216946068-355032303; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Telehealth as a Bright Spot of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Recommendations From the Virtual Frontlines ("Frontweb")

    Abstract:

    The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated the telehealth tipping point in the practice of family medicine and primary care in the United States, making telehealth not just a novel approach to care but also a necessary one for public health safety. Social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders have shifted patient care from face-to-face consultations in primary care offices to virtual care from clinicians’ homes or offices, moving to a new frontline, which we call the “frontweb.” Our telehealth workgroup employed the Clinical Transformation in Technology implementation framework to accelerate telehealth expansion and to develop a consensus document for clinician recommendations in providing remote virtual care during the pandemic. In a few weeks, telehealth went from under 5% of patient visits to almost 93%, while maintaining high levels of patient satisfaction. In this paper, we share clinician recommendations and guidance gleaned from this transition to the frontweb and offer a systematic approach for ensuring “webside” success.

  • Untitled. Source: Freepik; Copyright: freepik; URL: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/circular-white-pills-spilling-from-glass-bottle-yellow-background_2690208.htm; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Using Twitter to Surveil the Opioid Epidemic in North Carolina: An Exploratory Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Over the last two decades, deaths associated with opioids have escalated in number and geographic spread, impacting more and more individuals, families, and communities. Reflecting on the shifting nature of the opioid overdose crisis, Dasgupta, Beletsky, and Ciccarone offer a triphasic framework to explain that opioid overdose deaths (OODs) shifted from prescription opioids for pain (beginning in 2000), to heroin (2010 to 2015), and then to synthetic opioids (beginning in 2013). Given the rapidly shifting nature of OODs, timelier surveillance data are critical to inform strategies that combat the opioid crisis. Using easily accessible and near real-time social media data to improve public health surveillance efforts related to the opioid crisis is a promising area of research. Objective: This study explored the potential of using Twitter data to monitor the opioid epidemic. Specifically, this study investigated the extent to which the content of opioid-related tweets corresponds with the triphasic nature of the opioid crisis and correlates with OODs in North Carolina between 2009 and 2017. Methods: Opioid-related Twitter posts were obtained using Crimson Hexagon, and were classified as relating to prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids using natural language processing. This process resulted in a corpus of 100,777 posts consisting of tweets, retweets, mentions, and replies. Using a random sample of 10,000 posts from the corpus, we identified opioid-related terms by analyzing word frequency for each year. OODs were obtained from the Multiple Cause of Death database from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER). Least squares regression and Granger tests compared patterns of opioid-related posts with OODs. Results: The pattern of tweets related to prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids resembled the triphasic nature of OODs. For prescription opioids, tweet counts and OODs were statistically unrelated. Tweets mentioning heroin and synthetic opioids were significantly associated with heroin OODs and synthetic OODs in the same year (P=.01 and P<.001, respectively), as well as in the following year (P=.03 and P=.01, respectively). Moreover, heroin tweets in a given year predicted heroin deaths better than lagged heroin OODs alone (P=.03). Conclusions: Findings support using Twitter data as a timely indicator of opioid overdose mortality, especially for heroin.

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    Open Peer Review Period: Jul 6, 2020 - Jul 20, 2020

    Background: The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Egypt has been on the rise. Objective: The development of a reasonable statistical model to predict the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic is e...

    Background: The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Egypt has been on the rise. Objective: The development of a reasonable statistical model to predict the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic is essential in the effort to establish a strategy for flatting the infection curve. Methods: Here we report on the results of the implementation of the susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered (SEIR) mathematical model on the official data. Results: These results suggest that the peak of the infection curve might be reached on July 27, 2020, with around 820,000 of the cases of infection. Due to restrictions of the diagnosis policy in Egypt, this number is predicted to be lower, i.e. , around 110,000. In addition, the reproduction number will continue to be reduced, largely due to the government countermeasures. It is predicted to achieve approximately 0.611 by the middle of November. Conclusions: Given the continuation of the current measures, the first wave of the outbreak in Egypt is expected to subside. The computational model elaborated here could be readily applied to numerous other countries and their individual geographic regions. Clinical Trial: None

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