A better prediction model for patient surges from influenza? New Internet-based tool shows promise, say researchers.ED Manag. 2012 Mar; 24(3):29-30.EM
In a study focused on Baltimore, MD, researchers have found that data culled from Google Flu Trends, a free Internet-based influenza surveillance system, shows strong correlation with hikes in ED visits from patients with flu-like symptoms. While the approach has yet to be validated in other cities or regions, experts recommend that ED administrators and providers familiarize themselves with the new surveillance tool and stay abreast of developments regarding similar surveillance mechanisms. Google Flu Trends (www.google.org/flutrends/) is a free Internet-based tool that monitors Internet-based searches for flu information. Users can customize their search by location (city, state, country). Researchers say the advantage of this approach over traditional surveillance methods is that it provides real-time data about flu-related activity in a city or region. Traditional approaches, which rely on case reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are delayed. Researchers hope to eventually leverage this tool, and perhaps other surveillance data, into a powerful early-warning mechanism that EDs can use to better plan for patient surges due to influenza.