Microsoft Launches Online H1N1 Flu Response Center to Support Consumers
With the current H1N1 flu (swine flu) pandemic under way, many public health officials are concerned that critical healthcare resources could be stretched thin as people flood hospital emergency departments and physicians' offices to determine whether they have the illness.
In response, Microsoft Corp. announced a new Web site, H1N1 Response Center (http://www.h1n1responsecenter.com), which provides users with timely and relevant content and enables consumers to gauge symptoms and receive guidance using an H1N1 self-assessment service.
"If current estimates are correct, many emergency departments across the nation could be overwhelmed by two groups of patients — those who have H1N1 and those who believe they have H1N1," said Angela Gardner, M.D., FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "It is going to be essential that we use every tool and service at our disposal to contain this illness, and online H1N1 self-assessment tools, such as the one offered by Microsoft, can be helpful in providing people with ways to determine whether they should seek emergency care."
Designed to help people decide what to do if they are worried that they or someone they know might have H1N1, the site offers consumers a self-assessment licensed from medical and public health experts at Emory University. The service assists people in deciding whether their symptoms could be caused by the H1N1 flu virus and provides guidance on what they can do next.
"It is already clear that certain people are more vulnerable to the effects of H1N1 flu virus than others," said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine. "By providing an at-home tool that can help users evaluate whether they need to see a provider before they head to the hospital, we can encourage those who are severely ill or at risk for serious illness to contact their doctor, and reassure everyone else that it is safe and prudent to recover at home. This will reduce the number of people needlessly exposed to H1N1 influenza in crowded clinic and ER waiting rooms, and allow doctors and nurses to focus their attention on those who need them most."
If a person decides to see a provider after taking the assessment, a prepare-for-visit tool allows him or her to compile an organized health history for providers by combining the self-assessment answers with health information stored in the user's account in Microsoft HealthVault, a personal health application platform designed to put consumers in control of their health information. The connected nature of the HealthVault ecosystem enables individuals to act on their assessment through partners such as TelaDoc, which offers telephonic visits, and American Well, which connects individuals to their health plan physicians for video, chat or telephone consultations.
"Any pandemic has the potential to create major disruptions in society," said David Cerino, general manager, Microsoft Health Solutions Group. "Now more than ever, we are in a position to implement solutions to help people make better decisions during these outbreaks, such as social distancing, because of the technological advancements that companies like Microsoft have made over the past few years."
The self-assessment licensed from Emory University is based on a "Strategy for Off-site Rapid Triage," or SORT. SORT reflects current public health and clinical science, vetted by a national network of experts from public health, clinical medicine, health education and infectious disease. It is grounded in a clinical strategy endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the leading organization for emergency medicine in the U.S.