Design of a national retail data monitor for public health surveillance

J Am Med Inform Assoc. Sep-Oct 2003;10(5):409-18. doi: 10.1197/jamia.M1357. Epub 2003 Jun 4.


The National Retail Data Monitor receives data daily from 10,000 stores, including pharmacies, that sell health care products. These stores belong to national chains that process sales data centrally and utilize Universal Product Codes and scanners to collect sales information at the cash register. The high degree of retail sales data automation enables the monitor to collect information from thousands of store locations in near to real time for use in public health surveillance. The monitor provides user interfaces that display summary sales data on timelines and maps. Algorithms monitor the data automatically on a daily basis to detect unusual patterns of sales. The project provides the resulting data and analyses, free of charge, to health departments nationwide. Future plans include continued enrollment and support of health departments, developing methods to make the service financially self-supporting, and further refinement of the data collection system to reduce the time latency of data receipt and analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Computer Security
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disease Outbreaks* / statistics & numerical data
  • Electronic Data Processing*
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs* / economics
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • United States
  • User-Computer Interface


  • Nonprescription Drugs