Utility of emergency call centre, dispatch and ambulance data for syndromic surveillance of infectious diseases: a scoping review

Janneke W Duijster*, Simone DA Doreleijers, Eva Pilot, Wim van der Hoek, Geert Jan Kommer, Marianne Ab van der Sande, Thomas Krafft, Liselotte Chi van Asten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Syndromic surveillance can supplement conventional health surveillance by analyzing less-specific, near-real-time data for an indication of disease occurrence. Emergency medical call centre dispatch and ambulance data are examples of routinely and efficiently collected syndromic data that might assist in infectious disease surveillance. Scientific literature on the subject is scarce and an overview of results is lacking.A scoping review including (i) review of the peer-reviewed literature, (ii) review of grey literature and (iii) interviews with key informants.44records were selected: 20 peer reviewed and 24 grey publications describing 44 studies and systems. Most publications focused on detecting respiratory illnesses or on outbreak detection at mass gatherings. Most used retrospective data; some described outcomes of temporary systems; only two described continuously active dispatch- and ambulance-based syndromic surveillance. Key informants interviewed valued dispatch- and ambulance-based syndromic surveillance as a potentially useful addition to infectious disease surveillance. Perceived benefits were its potential timeliness, standardization of data and clinical value of the data.
Various dispatch- and ambulance-based syndromic surveillance systems for infectious diseases have been reported, although only roughly half are documented in peer-reviewed literature and most concerned retrospective research instead of continuously active surveillance systems. Dispatch- and ambulance-based syndromic data were mostly assessed in relation to respiratory illnesses; reported use for other infectious disease syndromes is limited. They are perceived by experts in the field of emergency surveillance to achieve time gains in detection of infectious disease outbreaks and to provide a useful addition to traditional surveillance efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-647
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date12 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • ambulances
  • communicable diseases
  • disease outbreaks
  • surveillance and monitoring
  • Syndromic
  • health system research


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