HMS Launches Swine Flu Application

Harvard Medical School debuted an H1N1 Influenza iPhone application this week as part the school’s new HMSMobile program, which provides rapid access to public health information through mobile devices.

The application, which costs $1.99, allows users to watch informational videos about the virus, lists prevention techniques, and charts outbreaks.

“People want short answers to burning questions,” said Harvard Health Publications Editor-In-Chief Anthony L. Komaroff. “They don’t want to spend two hours reading about a disease that a doctor says they might have.”

But some Harvard undergraduates voiced skepticism about the potential popularity and utility of the program.

Matthew P. Cavedon ’11 said that he had not heard of the H1N1 application and could not see much use for it.


“I could understand if WebMD had a broad application based on health concerns,” he said. “But one just based on swine flu seems a little alarmist to me.” Komaroff dismissed criticisms that the H1N1 outbreak has been overblown in the media.

“I don’t agree with people who say the swine flu is a fraudulent creation of the pharmaceutical industry or academics,” he said. “That is absolute nonsense.”

Komaroff noted that H1N1 has killed 1,000 people in the U.S.

Harvard Undergraduate Health Services has diagnosed about 300 people, mainly undergraduates, with influenza-like illness since the end of August.

Though the information about H1N1 is available on the Internet, Komaroff emphasized that there may be times when people have questions about the virus when web access is unavailable.

“Questions about swine flu may come to you when you are in an airport, or in a cab, when your computer is in the trunk,” he said.

Komaroff said three or four physicians helped with the development of the content and about a half dozen artists and editors employed by Harvard Health Publications assisted with the project.

Komaroff could not comment on the amount of the Medical School’s investment in the project and said he does not know whether the application is projected to yield a profit.

“I know we haven’t had a return on the investment so far, but I wouldn’t have expected it in two days,” he said.

—Staff Writer Laura G. Mirviss can be reached at