NU Online News Service, May 5, 2003, 4:12 p.m. EDT – The Optum nurse call center at UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., is helping the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detect bioterrorism.

Researchers at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Brookline, Mass., have started a $1.2 million pilot program that analyzes reports from the Optum nurse line and medical practices controlled by several large health plans, according to Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, Washington.

The Harvard Pilgrim researchers and officials at the CDC, which funded the program, are hoping the program can detect spikes in suspicious health problems even before patients affected by bioterrorism show up in hospital emergency rooms

Ignagni discussed the pilot program today at a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee’s national security subcommittee.