Providing a glimpse into the future of medical tech innovation, Minnesota’s Department of Health has launched a new online portal aiming to help flu vaccine-strapped health clinics across the state find the closest available immunizations to restock their shelves, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Although the 2013 flu epidemic has been plateauing in recent weeks, the U.S. still finds itself in the midst of the worst influenza outbreak in years. Minnesota has been hit particularly hard in recent weeks, prompting clinics across the state, as well as the Department of Health, to seek out available shots to meet with growing demand — with the help of a little technology:
The Health Department has worked with health care providers experiencing vaccine shortages before, but the exchange marks the first time it has launched an online tool to direct distribution of supplies. The department doesn’t actually redistribute vaccines, which are privately purchased, but instead allows clinics statewide to coordinate among themselves to meet patient demand.
But the publicly viewable online site allows health care providers to shift vaccine supplies where they’re most needed, whether they happen to be buyers or sellers… The exchange is essentially a Web bulletin board: Representatives of health care providers can log in without an account, post their needs, share their contact information and reply to other topic threads. [...]
“I think it is a great tool, but currently is being underutilized,” said Michelle Hanrahan, a wellness coordinator at Wellness Partners, which had already received a response seeking to purchase its extra vaccine.
Minnesota’s web-based solution to the dearth of vaccinations embodies what health care reform advocates hope that Obamacare will force health care providers across the country to do — make information easily accessible and simple to use in an effort to improve patient care and lower health costs.
Other institutions have begun to take similar tech-based approaches to public health problems. For instance, pharmacy giant Walgreens recently announced that it would try to coordinate more with physician groups and health care providers — largely assisted by electronic databases that make it easier to share medical information — in order to provide Americans with an easily-accessible and up-to-date health center. The National Football Association (NFL) also included improved electronic monitoring and sharing of players’ medical inormation as an integral part of its most recent collective bargaining deal with employees.