Detecting diseases, one click at a time

Felice  Freyer’s article in the Boston Globe yesterday described how the Flu Near You project is being adapted to estimate the incidence of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue.

“We’re testing the idea of Flu Near You being a broader surveillance system for emerging diseases,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and a founder of Flu Near You. The hope, he said, is that “if Zika really starts taking hold in the US, we’d be able to track it.”

Flu Near You was created by disease trackers at Children’s, Harvard Medical School, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. Its expansion into symptoms associated with Zika will test the fledgling science of “participatory surveillance,” in which citizens report their illnesses directly to researchers and authorities tracking the trajectory of diseases.

The reason we need Flu Near You, in my opinion, is that hospital electronic medical record (EMR) systems rarely upload data directly to state health departments and CDC. We need a single nationwide EMR. To do that will require a massive change in how our health care system is financed (i.e. replacing for-profit insurance companies with a single payer).

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Thanks so much for visiting my website! Writing and reading blog posts does take time and we all know that time is in short supply. You and I will both get much more out of this blog if it leads to dialogue. If you found my post useful and wouldn’t mind leaving a brief comment or sharing on social media, I would be grateful. Or if you’re shy about Tweeting but are willing to email me a comment that I can post anonymously or send an anonymous Surveymonkey, that would be great. My posts are generally written quickly, so if you find any factual or grammatical errors, please do let me know. Best regards, Philip Lederer

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