BACKGROUND: New biomedical prevention interventions make the control or elimination of some blood-borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) increasingly feasible. In response, the World Health Organization and governments around the world have established elimination targets and associated timelines. To monitor progress toward such targets, enhanced systems of data collection are required. This paper describes the Australian Collaboration for Coordinated Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance (ACCESS). OBJECTIVE: This study aims to establish a national surveillance network designed to monitor public health outcomes and evaluate the impact of strategies aimed at controlling BBVs and STIs. METHODS: ACCESS is a sentinel surveillance system comprising health services (sexual health clinics, general practice clinics, drug and alcohol services, community-led testing services, and hospital outpatient clinics) and pathology laboratories in each of Australia’s 8 states and territories. Scoping was undertaken in each jurisdiction to identify sites that provide a significant volume of testing or management of BBVs or STIs or to see populations with particular risks for these infections (“priority populations”). Nationally, we identified 115 health services and 24 pathology laboratories as relevant to BBVs or STIs; purposive sampling was undertaken. As of March 2018, we had recruited 92.0% (104/113) of health services and 71% (17/24) of laboratories among those identified as relevant to ACCESS. ACCESS is based on the regular and automated extraction of deidentified patient data using specialized software called GRHANITE, which creates an anonymous unique identifier from patient details. This identifier allows anonymous linkage between and within participating sites, creating a national cohort to facilitate epidemiological monitoring and the evaluation of clinical and public health interventions. RESULTS: Between 2009 and 2017, 1,171,658 individual patients attended a health service participating in ACCESS network comprising 7,992,241 consultations. Regarding those with unique BBV and STI-related health needs, ACCESS captured data on 366,441 young heterosexuals, 96,985 gay and bisexual men, and 21,598 people living with HIV. CONCLUSIONS: ACCESS is a unique system with the ability to track efforts to control STIs and BBVs-including through the calculation of powerful epidemiological indicators-by identifying response gaps and facilitating the evaluation of programs and interventions. By anonymously linking patients between and within services and over time, ACCESS has exciting potential as a research and evaluation platform. Establishing a national health surveillance system requires close partnerships across the research, government, community, health, and technology sectors. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/11028.
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ACCESS is funded by the Australian Department of Health. MH, RG, MS, and BD are supported by fellowships from the National
Health and Medical Research Council.