There’s a new site that might be worth checking out if you like epidemiology/health issues. Sickweather.com tracks signs and symptoms of common complaints and through simple analytics can pinpoint areas on a map where an outbreak maybe starting. The combined power of the net and lots of people reporting or making their issues known, a.k.a. the wisdom of crowds, gives the system its ability to see outbreaks before they reach proportions that would enable healthcare professionals to do so with older reporting methods.
The caveat, though, is that every headache is not a precursor of the flu and every cough is not diagnostic of pertussis. There are limits to self reporting and self diagnosis, after all. That said, Sickweather.com is probably a leading indicator of more advanced health care. If you really can spot emerging outbreaks of largely infectious diseases, you can treat them easier, exposing fewer people and saving the economic costs of things like missed work. Check it out.