It is difficult to predict flu activity primarily because influenza viruses mutate rapidly. On top of that, other factors such as the weather and holiday travel can affect the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and big data analytics can help improve the accuracy of flu activity forecasts. The Taiwan Center for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) and Acer jointly launched the “Flu Forecasting Station” website on April 11, 2018. The public can now has easy access to flu activity forecast for the next four weeks in the areas where they reside. The forecasting information aims to help the public better prepare themselves for flu outbreaks.
The Flu Forecasting Station produces visualized flu activity models based on the data pulled from the Taiwan CDC’s flu surveillance system, the National Health Insurance database, and the weather and population distribution data provided by the government. These models can successfully predict the future flu outbreak trends and the numbers of outpatient and emergency visits across the country. The models can also serve as a reference to help the local health bureaus and healthcare facilities formulate more comprehensive flu preparedness and response plans and facilitate better allocation of healthcare resources. By making the forecasting information available to the public, the public can better prepare themselves against flu infection.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) pointed out that due to the data provided by the comprehensive flu surveillance system and the National Health Insurance database combined with the use of big data analytics, the Flu Forecasting Station is able to more accurately predict the number of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI). The accuracy is highly accountable and more advanced than its counterparts elsewhere in the world. Minister Chen also expressed his gratitude to the support and dedication provided by Acer during the time of developing the system. This project is a good example of joint collaboration between the government and corporate.
Acer founder and honorary Chairman Stan Shih (施振榮) said that in the Smart City era, data is becoming the most valuable asset. Figuring out how to provide the public a systematic approach to participate in government efforts and gaining insights from Big Data create innovative values for the nation. Setting up a service-oriented digital government, driving the cross-industry digital innovation and developing higher value-added uses of data are the real ways to achieve sustainability and ‘Intelligent Taiwan’”. Acer President Ben Wan said, “Acer has been devoted to the development of AI-related technology for decades. We provide a complete portfolio of products designed for Smart Medicare, transportation, retail business and finance. After the National Epidemic Cloud Project (NECP), we are proud to be working with Taiwan CDC again. The application of predictive technologies in the field of flu forecast may serve the public as self-protection reminders and as a reference to healthcare facilities in preparedness and response to influenza pandemics”.
To deliver easy-to-understand information of flu epidemic to the public, the “Flu Forecasting Station” shows the number of flu cases across the entire nation and the situation analysis of the influenza epidemic with a panel that displays visualized geographic data. The public can better prepare for a flu outbreak with the prediction provided by the Flu Forecasting Station. Residents and healthcare providers may visit the Station at http://fluforecast.cdc.gov.tw to access the flu outbreak trends in the coming four weeks displayed on a self-explanatory and intuitive user interface, which is as convenient and easy-to-understand as weather forecast. For more information, please visit the Taiwan CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov.tw or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Care Hotline, 1922 (or 0800-001922).