Google Helps the CDC Track the Flu

From Forbes:

Google Flu Trends uses search terms that people put into the Web-based search engine to figure out where influenza is heating up, and notify the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in real time.

‘We’ve discovered that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity,’ Google said in a statement.

‘What this does is it takes Google search terms of influenza-like illness and influenza and it emulates a signal that tells us how much influenza activity there was,’ Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at the CDC, said in a telephone interview.

More CT’s, More MRI’s

From the LA Times:

If you feel like your doctor orders an MRI or CT scan about every time you go for an exam, you’re not alone. A new study shows use of sophisticated scanning technology doubled between 1995 and 2004, according to a study by researchers at Stanford University and Harvard University. The costs associated with more scanning have risen, too, but there is little evidence that the technology has led to better healthcare or fewer deaths.

The study, published today in the journal Health Affairs, found the number of MRI procedures per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries increased from 0.3 in 1985 to 50 in 1995 and 173 in 2004. Each new MRI unit on the market led to 733 additional MRI procedures, adding $550,000 to Medicare spending annually.

CT scans more than doubled from 235 per 1,000 in 1995 to 547 per 1,000 in 2005. Each new CT unit on the market prompted 2,224 additional CT scans and added $685,000 to the yearly Medicare bill.

Robot Patient

From CrunchGear:

keiko_robotGifu University’s Graduate School of Medicine [JP] (located in central Japan) has developed a new “sick” robot, which is specifically geared towards medical students.

Named Keiko (”practice” in Japanese), the robot is able to answer questions such as “How are you doing?”, i.e. by saying “I get tired easily lately”. The interactive humanoid robot, which has been jointly developed with Mizuno Technical Institute, is meant to help medical students practice conversations with patients.

They can also use Keiko for examinations by touch, before doing the same with human beings. Keiko is specifically designed for training neurological disorders so that medical students are able to learn the various ways brain and nervous system illnesses can be identified.

Study Confirms Increased Heart Attack Deaths In NYC Ambulance Diversions

(Not exactly non-urban, but interesting… Ed.)

From Medical News Today:

“Emergency room overcrowding and ambulance diversions aren’t just inconvenient for patients,” says Prof. Green. “This research shows that delaying treatment to people suffering ailments or injuries that require immediate care can cost them their lives.”

Patients who try to access a hospital emergency room during a time of ambulance diversion may experience additional delays not only due to the increased travel time associated with going to a more distant hospital, but also because this increased time translates into longer response times to calls for ambulances. In addition, the research showed that when one hospital is on diversion, there is an increased likelihood that other hospitals are on diversion and so emergency rooms are generally busier. So when the patient arrives to an emergency room, the wait to be seen by a physician and receive care is likely to be longer.