Here’s a great post over at Software Advice that details some of the companies involved in the push for a social media platform to monitor health threats (and health data). I put out my diatribe on the usefulness of such a platform in this post, which is just my rambling thoughts on what in the past has contributed to the growing need for a simple, real-time application for health monitoring situations.
Of course privacy issues and system noise are really my big concerns with a platform that is accessible to the public so I see the need to develop a secure system available to the proper officials. These could include a wide range of people from epidemiologists, fluologists, HIV surveyors, emerging disease specialists, volunteers in underserved populations, and of course physicians. The true power to a system like this would be recruiting all necessary players to sign up and participate. If there were only 3 physicians in Mexico hooked up to a system like this before the H1N1 outbreak it would not have generated enough notice for action. With a large system of connected messages it is possible for those tracking diseases to make quality assessments on the true prevalence of disease conditions. The ultimate power in this type of system is the ability for webcrawler algorithms to access the system. There are fantastic tracking programs (see GPHIN and Google Flu Trends) but they require the information to be put online before their abilities are put to use. Being able to access the power of these crawlers by circumventing the traditional media for real-time social media should open doors to disease emergence and allow for a much more massive surveillance of all disease types.