Microbe Magazine has an interesting article and an audio interview about two ways people are using mobile devices and social networking to help monitor hand washing compliance and track infectious diseases.
The first method they describe is an iPhone app called iScrub (free and available on iTunes App Store) which was developed to “automate the monitoring of hand-hygiene practices in health care settings.” Originally developed for hospital settings, the article states the app could be as a “stealth app” to be used in other non-hospital environments where hand hygiene is important such as food handling.
The second method they describe is using Twitter to track infectious diseases. The article states Alessio Signoroni and Philip Polgreen used the 2009 H1N1 outbreak to test Twitter as method for tracking disease outbreaks. They started in April 2009 and by June they had collected 950,000 tweets containing terms such as H1N1, swine, flu, or influenza.
And you thought iPhone apps and Twitter were just for fun and had no real world value? While I know there are practical applications for these tools, I have to admit I would have never thought about creating a hand washing app or tracking tweets. It will be interesting to see how these and other things like them pan out.