Innovation in Public Health Starts with a Single Tweet
Though Twitter has taken its fair share of heat lately for too much openness with the Federal government, and too little with third-party application developers, it seems to be gaining ground – and favor as the platform of choice – in the world of population health.
Earlier this month, a company called MappyHealth was announced as the winner of a developers’ challenge sponsored by the HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). (A fitting time to announce the winning submission, as September is National Preparedness Month, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the US Department of Homeland Security.)
The winner of the “Now Trending: #Health in My Community” challenge is a Web-based application tool that public health officials can leverage to “complement other health surveillance systems in identifying emerging health issues and as an early warning of possible public health emergencies in a community,” according to a recent Healthcare IT News report.
Though MappyHealth’s future remains to be seen, as Twitter does seem to be clamping down on open-source development via its new API policy, the concepts behind its technology have much to offer the public health sector.
As the report also points out, “Early identification allows health officials to respond quickly, including advising people on how to protect their health and minimize the spread of disease. Officials say these strategies can help the community bounce back quickly from an outbreak or a public health emergency – potentially even heading off a public health emergency such as a pandemic.”
According to a study published recently in the BMC Public Health Journal, only 26 state public health departments had Twitter accounts as of last year, leaving ample room for exponential data mining as the remaining 24 states jump on the healthcare social media bandwagon. Combine this with the anticipated 3 billion social networking accounts expected to be online in 2015, and the opportunity for insight via social networks into population health trends is tremendously high.
It’s no secret that social networking in healthcare is driving patient engagement, and education throughout every sector of the industry. What’s interesting is that it now seems to also be driving technological innovation. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time until a 140-character, off-the-cuff tweet about waiting in line at Walgreen’s Take Care Clinic to be seen for flu-like symptoms contributes to a targeted surge in vaccines in that area.