Microsoft offers online H1N1 screening service

As the industry has known for some time, a full H1N1 outbreak could easily swamp the resources of virtually any community hospital, not only with the sick, but with the worried-well hoping to be screened. In fact, some estimates suggest that as many as 40 percent of the U.S. population will acquire swine flu, a deluge that no community health system is completely prepared to handle.

While hospitals have some options for spreading out the load--ranging from drive-through testing to satellite locations to streamlined ED procedures--what if they could eliminate some of the foot traffic entirely? That's just what Microsoft hopes to do.

In response to these concerns, Microsoft has just announced that it's come up with a tool to presumably help with these concerns.  The Big M has launched a site it calls the H1N1 Response Center (, a free service that helps consumers assess their symptoms and suggests options for consumers considering a doctor or hospital visit.

The assessment is based on research from doctors at Emory University, who themselves drew on input from public health experts and other medical professionals. It asks about symptoms and other risk factors, such as age, underlying health issues, pregnancy and other relevant concerns. If users say things that suggest they're seriously ill, it may urge them to hit the ED within a few questions.

According to the company, the service hopes to a) help severely ill or at-risk people make better decisions, and b) encourage those who are mildly ill to stay at home.

To learn more about this tool:
- read this Microsoft press release

Related Articles:
Hospitals may limit visits to newborns due to H1N1 flu fears
H1N1 vaccinations: Professional obligation or personal choice?
Study: Early vaccinations could cut H1N1-related deaths