Over the past month or so on travel to a number of events, was a bit shocked to see all the attention being paid to the upcoming flu season and in particular, the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the Swine Flu. It first caught my attention at MIT’s emTech’09 conference where everywhere you turned there was some poster encouraging you to wash your hands, or cover your mouth while coughing or simply defining symptoms of the flu and if you have those symptoms, isolate yourself. Along with those signs and posters, were the little dispensers of disinfectants, again, seemingly everywhere.
Next up were the airports. Again, posters everywhere encouraging those with the symptoms to NOT get on the plane but go into isolation. Luckily, I’m not a hypochondriac or else I doubt if I would do any travel this flu season.
But what really caught my eye at the San Francisco airport was the small booth set-up by Harmony Pharmacy, right there in the airport concourse giving out flu shots. The two young nurses working there said they have been very busy giving flu shots, even though these shots are only for the broad-base seasonal flu and not H1N1, which is the nasty one we all need to be concerned about.
And how concerned you ask?
At the Health2.0 Conference held this week in San Francisco during a panel discussion, Google talked about their recently released FluTrends app, which they claim provides results on the spread of the flu about 1.5-2 weeks faster than what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) can provide. Applying advanced analytics/algorthims to Google search inquiries, Google is able to put together not only a graph of how quickly the virus is spreading in the US (and numerous other countries) but more specifically where it is most concentrated. With a virus as virulent as the H1N1, literally everyday counts and this service by Google may help providers in say Texas, or better yet a state neighboring Texas to prepare for the worst.
Not to be outdone on the panel, Microsoft made its own announcement (Press Release went out yesterday) on the panel of an on-line, flu self-assessment tool called the H1N1 Flu Response Center. The Response Center a flu self-assessment tool developed at Emory University that Microsoft has licensed. A very quick and easy self-assessment tool that concludes with stating either you may or may not have the flu and providing a list of next steps to take.
It is good to see both Google and Microsoft take a lead here and it certainly will not hurt their broader marketing health & wellness ambitions. Personally, my only regret is not seeing the signs early enough to capitalize on this growing national issue, which if Google’s FluTrends is correct, it will be one nasty flu season.
Sean Nolan, chief architect has a new post that goes into far greater detail as to the background development of their flu assessment tool (built on the MSFT cloud service Azure) and the background analytics, using Amalga UIS for real-time tracking and trending data for research use.