Monitoring the Pulse of a Pandemic

image The World Health Organization has raised their alert level to Phase 5, meaning that a pandemic outbreak of swine flu is imminent and just one step away from Phase 6 which would indicate that a worldwide pandemic is underway.   Also, the CDC has reported the first death associated with the Type A N1H1 swine flu virus in the United States; a toddler from Mexico who died in a Texas hospital.  Swine flu is now suspected in 11 states, including 6 cases here in Washington State.  The total number of US cases has surpassed the 100 mark and is expected to go much higher.  Cases are also being reported in 6 European nations, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, the Middle East and possibly in Asia.

How can public health officials and hospitals around the world respond to such a crisis?   What tools can be deployed to help local, regional, and national authorities monitor the spread of a disease and mobilize resources to deal with it appropriately?  How do you monitor the pulse of a pandemic?


For one hospital in Northern California, the answer was clear.  El Camino Hospital, a community hospital located in the heart of Silicon Valley in Northern California, found the tool they needed in the Microsoft Amalga Unified Intelligence System.  El Camino is an early adopter customer for Microsoft Amalga, a data aggregation and analysis solution originally developed by clinicians at Medstar Health’s Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.AmalgaLogo_UnifiedIntellSys_h_rgb

Within a matter of hours, clinicians at El Camino modified a few fields within Amalga to capture information specific to possible flu cases coming through the hospital’s busy emergency room.  The result is a real-time dashboard that is keeping hospital officials appraised of possible swine flu cases at El Camino and will help them respond appropriately should one or more cases be confirmed.  Clinicians are praising Amalga for the solution’s flexibility and the way it can be adapted to meet specific organizational needs as they arise.

Microsoft has announced plans to provide guidance to other Amalga customers so they too can immediately begin using the solution to monitor flu activity.  This could prove especially valuable where Amalga has been deployed to gather community-wide clinical data.  One example of that is the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange where more than a dozen emergency rooms in the state are now able to share real-time clinical data thanks to Microsoft Amalga.

For more information about the Amalga Unified Intelligence System, click here .  Also note that Microsoft is holding a special conference in Bellevue on June 11th and 12th to discuss the importance of liberating data across the entire healthcare system and connecting the ecosystem entities.  For more information about the Microsoft Connected Health Conference or to register, click here.


As Microsoft has done many times in the past during natural disasters or disease outbreaks, the company is also assisting the CDC and the government in Mexico in getting out needed information about the current swine flu pandemic.  To learn more, you can watch this report from Seattle’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV.


Bill Crounse, MD     Senior Director, Worldwide Health      Microsoft Corporation

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