Monitoring the Pulse of a Pandemic

image The World Health Organization has raised their alert level to Phase 5, meaning that a pandemic outbreak of swine flu is imminent and just one step away from Phase 6 which would indicate that a worldwide pandemic is underway.   Also, the CDC has reported the first death associated with the Type A N1H1 swine flu virus in the United States; a toddler from Mexico who died in a Texas hospital.  Swine flu is now suspected in 11 states, including 6 cases here in Washington State.  The total number of US cases has surpassed the 100 mark and is expected to go much higher.  Cases are also being reported in 6 European nations, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, the Middle East and possibly in Asia.

How can public health officials and hospitals around the world respond to such a crisis?   What tools can be deployed to help local, regional, and national authorities monitor the spread of a disease and mobilize resources to deal with it appropriately?  How do you monitor the pulse of a pandemic?


For one hospital in Northern California, the answer was clear.  El Camino Hospital, a community hospital located in the heart of Silicon Valley in Northern California, found the tool they needed in the Microsoft Amalga Unified Intelligence System.  El Camino is an early adopter customer for Microsoft Amalga, a data aggregation and analysis solution originally developed by clinicians at Medstar Health’s Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.AmalgaLogo_UnifiedIntellSys_h_rgb

Within a matter of hours, clinicians at El Camino modified a few fields within Amalga to capture information specific to possible flu cases coming through the hospital’s busy emergency room.  The result is a real-time dashboard that is keeping hospital officials appraised of possible swine flu cases at El Camino and will help them respond appropriately should one or more cases be confirmed.  Clinicians are praising Amalga for the solution’s flexibility and the way it can be adapted to meet specific organizational needs as they arise.

Microsoft has announced plans to provide guidance to other Amalga customers so they too can immediately begin using the solution to monitor flu activity.  This could prove especially valuable where Amalga has been deployed to gather community-wide clinical data.  One example of that is the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange where more than a dozen emergency rooms in the state are now able to share real-time clinical data thanks to Microsoft Amalga.

For more information about the Amalga Unified Intelligence System, click here.  Also note that Microsoft is holding a special conference in Bellevue on June 11th and 12th to discuss the importance of liberating data across the entire healthcare system and connecting the ecosystem entities.  For more information about the Microsoft Connected Health Conference or to register, click here.


As Microsoft has done many times in the past during natural disasters or disease outbreaks, the company is also assisting the CDC and the government in Mexico in getting out needed information about the current swine flu pandemic.  To learn more, you can watch this report from Seattle’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV.


Bill Crounse, MD     Senior Director, Worldwide Health      Microsoft Corporation

Comments (7)
  1. Yesterday I posted about Microsoft Amalga and the New Life Sciences software to be added.  I mention

  2. FutureFed says:

    By Teresa Carlson , Microsoft Vice President of U.S. Federal Government Sales Recently in the media…

  3. hlthblog says:

    Thanks for the cross link to HealthBlog, Teresa.  Thanks also for drawing attention to the ways our customers and partners are using information technology to monitor flu and other outbreaks of serious disease, and respond appropriately.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  4. Looking at this article some months later makes me realise how far behind the curve we are in the UK.  21c recently began to roll-out a Microsoft based solution for managing the UK pandemic as a reactive measure.  It is great to see UIS being used in a pro-active way…but our clients in the UK also tell us that they appreciate how quickly solutions can be built using Sharepoint, as we have done.

  5. Charles Beauchamp MD, PhD says:

    Does Amalga have an annotated problem list capability such that it is possible to do "smart annotation" under problems on the problem list that document the set of interventions that are applied per patient for the rx and followup of patients with, for example, flu symptoms?  If not, why not.  On another Microsoft Blog I argued and got apparent agreement about the importance of an "annotated problem list" capability as has existed in the VA since the late 1980’s.  And if not it is all the more reason for VA VisTa in it commercial forms (that includes Intersystems Cache and HealthShare functionality) to serve as the grand data integrator in health care.  What about this capability?  What about the ability to use this capability to look at outcomes based on interventions applied using qualitative and quantitative analysis capabilities?  If you do not understand these points you have a very deficient product.

  6. hlthblog says:

    Dr. Ceauchamp,

    Thanks for your comment.  I am tardy in responding because I wanted to get some facts from my colleagues in our Health Solutions Group (HealthVault and Amalga).  The following comes from Sean Nolan, chief software architect:

    • The answer depends on which of the “Amalga” products you are asking about.

    •  Amalga UIS is a data aggregation platform that primarily collects information from multiple transactions systems to provide a unified view of patients and the organization. To the extent that those transactional systems use an “annotated problem list” concept, UIS absolutely can ingest that information and maintain the linkages and metadata from the source system — in addition to connecting that information with all the other clinical, financial and administrative information about a patient. But problem list data is not generally created in Amalga UIS — we are not that type of EMR system.

    •  Amalga HIS is a more traditional transaction application. While it does not use the problem list as the “root” of annotations, there is a capability to link between problems, notes, prescriptions, treatments and so on using a concept that collects all of these together as an “episode of care” — imagine a pregnancy, or a series of visits (potentially over years) that are focused on lower back pain, or so on. So to that extent, we do create the continuity I think you are calling an “annotated problem list”.

    I hope that clarifies your comment.  Thanks again for writing.

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