Researchers from the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs conducted a study over a 36-week period beginning in October of 2007 that utilized both interactive voice response, or IVR, and the Internet in order to collect data and effectively track population-based infectious diseases.
Infectious diseases occur when germs transfer between individuals, and may infect people through eating, kissing, drinking, touching, breathing, via insect bites, and possibly from animals. There are several categories of infectious diseases, and they are classified based on the manner in which they are transmitted.
Communicable diseases are transmitted from one organism to another via either bacteria or viruses. Contagious diseases are highly communicable and have the ability to spread rapidly from one person to another via contact or even close proximity. It is worth noting that some germs are communicable and contagious, while others are strictly communicable (food poisoning is a good example of this).
Epidemiology helps researchers to study diseases within a population, and can be particularly helpful in understanding, curbing, and even preventing the spread of infectious diseases by pinpointing the behavioral patterns and evolution of a disease. It is important for researchers and scientists to understand if an outbreak is sporadic, endemic, epidemic, or pandemic, so that a tailored treatment and prevention plan may be created to address specific issues and concerns.
Researchers from the Swedish Ministry of Health randomly selected fourteen thousand individuals to participate in a study utilizing both IVR and online technology to track the spread of particular population-based infectious diseases, defined in the article Interactive Voice Response and Web-Based Questionnaires for Population-Based Infectious Disease Reporting as “all respiratory tract infections, including Influenza-like Illness”.
Respondents were asked to report occurrences of infections immediately upon appearing symptomatic, and self-selected either web-based reporting or interactive voice response reporting as the technology they would use to communicate this information.
The basic premise of this research study was to identify additional efficient ways for members of the general population to report and catalogue incidences of infection, as a method of tracking disease patterns within the overall population. Typically organizations like the CDC rely on reporting submitted by physicians or data submitted from laboratories, which are not necessarily representative of the population since it only takes in to account data from those who chose to seek medical assistance and advice.
It is worth noting that since respondents were able to self-select their preferred reporting technology, the number individuals utilizing the web to report was nearly double that of those who selected IVR.
Up next, the study’s findings are explored in Technology + Disease Reporting = Prevention?