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Think You Have Swine Flu? Take A New Online Test

You've got a cough and a fever--and haven't had your flu shot yet. Could you possibly have H1N1? Microsoft has launched a new website to help you assess whether you've got swine flu.
You've got a cough and a fever--and haven't had your flu shot yet. Could you possibly have H1N1? Microsoft has launched a new website to help you assess whether you've got swine flu.If H1N1--or even regular seasonal flu--becomes an epidemic this year, healthcare resources could become scarce, with sick patients filling up doctor office waiting rooms, hospital beds and ER departments.

Microsoft's new website, H1N1 Response Center, which includes an assessment tool licensed from Emory University, aims to help consumers gauge their symptoms, helping them to figure out whether they could be showing signs of swine flu. That includes suggesting that a person with shortness of breath should make an appointment to see their doctor, even if it's unlikely the individual has H1N1.

While Microsoft is not in the business of dispensing medical advice, here's where Microsoft's angle comes in: The site also allows individuals to create a free Microsoft HealthVault personal e-health record account, in which the self-assessment information can be saved, as well as other medical data added. The site includes a tool to help patients who create HealthVault accounts compile their health information prior to doctor appointments.

Individuals also have the option of sharing their self-assessment information--including gender, age, symptoms and zip codes--with public health officials and researchers for monitoring regional health conditions. (No names, contact info or computer IP addresses are collected.)

The site also features links to other content, including H1N1 prevention tips.

"What we're looking for is improving outcomes [of patients] but we're not subject experts" for medical issues, said David Cerino, general manager of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group. However, "Emory sits down the street from the CDC [in Atlanta]…and we have an algorithm" for writing web-based assessment tests combining Emory's clinical expertise, he said.

Collaborations between Microsoft and other third-party medical experts, university researchers, healthcare providers, labs, pharmacy chains and insurers are key in drawing consumers to create HealthVault personal e-health records and to check out its other applications--like the H1N1 self-assessment test.

Getting patients engaged in these personal health record offerings and other related tools is an important step in patients taking better control over their health situations and their health information.

What do you think?



InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-health and the federal stimulus package. Download the report here (registration required).