COVID‐19 Real‐time Information System for Preparedness and Epidemic Response (CRISPER)

Emma Field, Amalie Dyda and Colleen L Lau
Med J Aust 2021; 214 (8): 386-386.e1. || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51019
Published online: 3 May 2021

To the Editor: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic has created an unprecedented need for real‐time surveillance data to inform decisions and action by public health responders and primary health care practitioners. Early in the pandemic, many countries swiftly produced interactive national dashboards with mapping capabilities.1,2 A dashboard is an online tool for data management which optimises information access and data visualisation.3 Dashboards provide benefits compared with standard reporting, including sharing near real‐time data during rapidly evolving situations, and providing users with the opportunity to interact with the data. If designed appropriately, users can also interrogate data and ask questions based on their specific informational needs. Many dashboards also provide mapping capabilities, allowing for visualisation of spatial distribution of information, and monitoring trends geographically over time.2

Australia does not yet have an official and publicly accessible national interactive dashboard for COVID‐19. Some states and territories have developed publicly available COVID‐19 dashboards, but data are generally aggregated, making it difficult to answer specific questions that include time and location and source of infection. An interactive near real‐time dashboard could improve access to and comprehension of data for primary health care providers and public health responders. Researchers from the Australian National University, Menzies School of Health Research and the University of Queensland are developing a COVID‐19 Real‐time Information System for Preparedness and Epidemic Response (CRISPER) ( as a nationwide information and visualisation system for Australia. CRISPER aims to become the principal source of accurate, reliable and spatially explicit real‐time information for COVID‐19 (Box).

The system currently uses publicly available postcode‐level data, primarily from state and territory health department websites. Gaining access to nationwide line‐listed data is underway, which will allow additional functionality, including a clinical dashboard detailing clinical outcomes (eg, hospital and intensive care unit admissions, deaths) stratified by demographics, comorbidities, time and place. Also under development is an automatic alert system providing registered users with daily or weekly email alerts on new cases, contract tracing alerts and/or testing rates based on user‐defined geographical areas of interest.

We believe that CRISPER will improve accessibility of information for primary health care practitioners and public health responders and will enable them to make more timely and informed decisions. This system may serve as a prototype platform for rapid information sharing for other epidemic‐prone diseases.

Box – Features of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‐19) Real‐time Information System for Preparedness and Epidemic Response (CRISPER)

CRISPER aims to optimise information access and visualisation for COVID‐19 through:

  • Emma Field1,2
  • Amalie Dyda3
  • Colleen L Lau1,3

  • 1 Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
  • 2 Menzies School of Health Research, Brisbane, QLD
  • 3 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD



This research has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council through the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) Centre of Research Excellence. The APPRISE Centre for Research Excellence played no role in the planning, writing or publication of this work. We thank the project team and collaborators who reviewed this manuscript: from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Population Health, Michael Hewett, Paul Konings, Luis Furuya‐Kanamori, Meru Sheel, Olivia Williams, Stephanie Curtis and Charlee Law; from the ANU Software Innovations Institute, Jess Moore, Graham Williams, Michael Purcell, Kieran Ricardo and Alex Sneddon; from the Menzies School of Health Research, Ross Andrews and Lisa McHugh; from the University of Melbourne, Priyanka Pillai; and from Medibank Health Solutions, Nelson Lau.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Berry I, Soucy JR, Tuite A, Fisman D. COVID‐19 Canada Open Data Working Group. Open access epidemiologic data and an interactive dashboard to monitor the COVID‐19 outbreak in Canada. CMAJ 2020; 192: E420.
  • 2. Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Johns Hopkins University. COVID‐19 dashboard. (viewed Dec 2020).
  • 3. Dowding D, Randell R, Gardner P, et al. Dashboards for improving patient care: review of the literature. Int J Med Inform 2015; 84: 87–100.


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