A social network for pig vets

 “Veterinarians who work with hogs across the country could use a place to come together to track and discuss cases of new, emerging diseases,” says Dr. Daniel Hurnik, Industry Chair in Swine Research at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College. “What we really need is a social network where we can identify trends and discuss how to best respond.”

Dr. Hurnik is also Chair of the Long-Term Disease Risk Management Advisory Committee of the Canadian Swine Health Board. As Chair, Dr. Hurnik is guiding a project with practitioners across the country to develop something called the Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network (CSHIN).

“The first step is creating a common space where disease and health data are being gathered by practitioners across Canada,” says Dr. Hurnik. “But we don’t want this to be a burden on veterinarians who are already pressed for time. We’d like this to be a logical step in their everyday workflow.”

Dr. Daniel Hurnik is UPEI's Industry Chair in Swine ResearchDr. Daniel Hurnik is UPEI's Industry Chair in Swine Research

Dr. Hurnik explains that nearly every veterinary practice uses some sort of practice-management system to track patient and other information. One possibility is to get all practitioners to use common software so that anonymous information can be shared and analyzed.

“Practitioners in Manitoba and Alberta have developed a software package called Swine Database Services,” says Dr. Hurnik. “We’re rolling this software out with veterinarians across the country. It uses a central server so that information about trends and diseases can be examined at a macro level without identifying specific farms.”

Without a national veterinary network, sharing information between regions requires organizing meetings and pulling people away from their day-to-day work.

“And that can be expensive and not very convenient,” says Dr. Hurnik. “Especially when you consider how big of a country we’re dealing with.”

CSHIN is examining a few methods of holding discussions, from an email group to a closed social network that shares information electronically.

“When you’re talking about disease, the longer you wait to take action, the worse the problem can become,” says Dr. Hurnik. “Our goal is to detect new disease events early so that we can plan our response early.”