In March 2009, a novel strain of H1N1 influenza unexpectedly emerged in Mexico and rapidly spread to the United States. The outbreak produced widespread anxiety and triggered a massive surge of visits to emergency rooms in areas of the country. As a result, experts from medicine, public health, nursing, information technology, and other disciplines moved quickly to develop clinical algorithms designed to help people make informed decisions about seeking care for influenza-like symptoms. The result of this effort was called “Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage,” or SORT, and it was eventually developed into a web-based tool. A pediatric version of SORT (SORT for Kids) was also developed, but could not be endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics without prospective evidence of safety.
As a result, the de Beaumont Foundation funded the RAND Corporation to conduct a pilot study to assess the safety and utility of SORT for Kids. This web-based tool can reduce needless healthcare costs during regular flu seasons, and blunt health system surge in future influenza pandemics, by helping parents or guardians make informed decisions about the needs of their children. Following the pilot study, RAND collaborated with the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network to conduct a definitive nationwide study.