Health organizations not prepared to use e-health tools to combat epidemics

Tools

Despite a plethora of claims that IT tools like information exchanges and geographic information systems could help to combat health epidemics, research published this week out of Australia concludes that organizations worldwide would not be adequately prepared to use e-health systems in the event of a massive pandemic disease.

The study's authors, who published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, said that despite the promise of such tools, organizational preparedness is essential, yet lacking. To that end, the adoption of those tools would be too disruptive to current protocols, they said.

According to an announcement, the researchers created a "multi-pronged approach" to help organizations examine their levels of readiness for technology deployment in such situations. The strategy, in theory, is set up to aid organizations in determining what the missing pieces are from their e-health systems.

Social media sites like Twitter, as well as Google's Flu Trends website, have been touted as tools that can help researchers and providers predict spreading pandemics both for research and treatment purposes. For instance, researchers from Johns Hopkins University earlier this year developed a new Twitter screening method for delivering real-time data on flu cases that determined which publicly available tweets are linked to actual infections. The researchers said that their methods, based on an analysis of 5,000 public tweets per minute, closely aligned with government disease data.

Meanwhile, Google Flu Trends was thought to be a good "baseline indicator" of epidemic trends at the beginning of last flu season, but could not replace traditional methods, despite its quick feedback system, according to research published in February in the journal Nature.

"It is hard to think today that one can provide disease surveillance without existing systems," Alain-Jacques Valleron, an epidemiologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, told Nature. "The new systems depend too much on old existing ones to be able to live without them."

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the announcement

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