Using aggregated and anonymized Google search data, these tools model and track seasonal disease outbreaks in near real-time and offer the potential to serve as early alert systems for health officials providing them with extra time to devise response strategies.
A 2009 paper published in Nature showed Google Flu Trends matched trend data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to within 95 percent but was less accurate at estimating actual rates of laboratory-confirmed flu. Still, the tool is cheap, fast and could help bridge the CDC's typically tw0-week lag in reporting flu activity.
Launched this year, Google Dengue Trends was created with assistance from researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. The methodology behind the surveillance system is outlined in this recent article published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
During the Stanford Summit, Sahai will give a brief presentation on his work on Google's disease surveillance tools and participate in a panel discussion moderated by Wired executive editor Thomas Goetz. To register for Medicine 2.0, please visit the conference website. Regular registration rates end Aug. 1.
More news about the Medicine 2.0 conference at Stanford is available in the Medicine 2.0 category.