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A Virtual Battle To Combat Swine Flu


Source: US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Source: US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

The number of deaths in Mexico has surpassed 150.  The Department of Homeland Security has delcared a public health emergency in the United States.  The European Union’s health commission urged people to avoid non-essential travel to the affected areas.  Confirmed cases have now been reported in the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.

Clearly, the rapid spread of swine flu has become a serious, global issue.  With scientists and government officials (across the globe) leaping into action, now is the time to leverage web and virtual technologies to faciliate the global effort to combat the disease and outbreak.

To get through a crisis, information sharing is paramount.  To combat swine flu, it will be critical to faciliate:

  1. Information distribution – real-time updates, to help all parties have a global view of the situation.  We need to understand where the illness has spread, along with in-country updates on how (and how severe) the illness is affecting the local population
  2. Information exchange – experts in the field of medicine, outbreak, crisis management, etc. need to provide their insights to those who need it
  3. Collaboration and dialog – related to information exchange – key parties need to have real-time dialog and collaboration to discuss current conditions and strategize on next steps

Here’s why a virtual event platform would be effective as a crisis management platform:

  1. Global access – with travel a limited option, participants can access this platform from any location with an Internet connection.
  2. Simple technical requirements – a basic PC (or Mac) with Adobe Flash should do the trick, which means that most Internet-connected computers will be fine.
  3. Tracking and transcripts – collaboration among participants can be tracked, with transcripts of communications saved for later review.
  4. Facilitates document sharing and access control – virtual event platforms can store, index and catalog documents, presentations, rich media, etc.  In addition, some platforms provide for user-level access controls, which allow the administrator to provide sensitive or confidential documents to a selected set of participants.  While I’d argue that in a crisis, all information should be shared, there may be certain information during this crisis that is provided early on to selected members, to review before others.
  5. Facilitates ad-hoc discussions – place 25 scientists and government officials into a text-based group chat area (giving some the option to participate via webcam) and I think that many benefits will follow.

Here are some of the primary components that the platform could offer:

  1. Resource Center – make the platform the “home page” for crisis management.  Have the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organization) place updates, documents, links, presentations, etc. into a folder structure – and, provide a robust search capability for participants to find the information they need.  As new information becomes available, it is placed in the Resource Center.
  2. Auditorium – allow those same organizations to provide live, streaming broadcasts (audio or video) to participants, to cover breaking news, status of the outbreak globally, etc.  In addition, representatives from the pharmaceutical industry can provide updates on the development of a vaccine to combat swine flu.
  3. Lounge – create structured chat areas for participants to exchange information and collaborate.
  4. Private Chat – for conversation that need to happen outside of the Lounge, private, one-on-one chat can be faciliated.
  5. End User Search – during times of crisis, it’s often useful to find and connect with others, who may be able to provide information, assistance, etc.  You might need to find an in-country expert in Asia Pac to help assess the situation there.  Or, you might be in need of an expert to analyze conditions that are unique to your region.  With the virtual platform, a robust end user search (based on users’ profile information) can facilitate these connections.

What are your thoughts – would such a platform be useful to help battle swine flu – and, how could this be organized in order to faciliate global participation?

Note: The World Health Organization has a useful FAQ on swine flu here: http://www.who.int/csr/swine_flu/swine_flu_faq.pdf

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One Response to A Virtual Battle To Combat Swine Flu

  1. […] An ongoing virtual crisis center to combat swine flu […]

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