Stanford medical survey

Thursday, June 4


Have I really been up here on Yankee Hill for 80 days? 

Phileas Fogg and Passepartout went around the world in that time. 

Me? I’ve gone up and down the stairs to my bedroom at least 300 times. I’ve hiked out to the creek with Lil maybe two-dozen times.  I’ve taken the trash out to the corner for pick up every week. And I’ve needed no hot-air balloons, steamships, locomotives or elephants to do any of these things. 

OK, OK, Jules Verne’s characters did many more fascinating things in their 80 days than I have in mine.  

But I have been something of a medical hero, and Phileas was not:  I am now, and have been for more than a month, part of a nationwide effort to contain the Coronavirus.

Along with more than a quarter-million others, I respond every day to the Stanford National Daily Health Survey. An email each morning reminds me to answer the questions: 

“Since your last survey,” goes the first, “are you feeling better, worse or the same?”  Been “the same” since I joined the team on April 21. Hope to stay that boring. 

Until this week, I was also asked if I had experienced undefined “symptoms,” and my answer was always no.  But now Stanford’s online questionnaire lists more than a dozen specific Corona symptoms. I check “none.” 

And two new questions appeared just a couple of days ago:  Was I tested for Corona in the past 24?  Have I been hospitalized? 

The survey is designed to serve as an “early warning system,”  identifying new infection hot spots across the country before patients start appearing in hospitals. 

Great idea. Still, I do not want to be the canary in this particular viral coal mine, and hope my answers will continue to be negative. 

That said, I may throw a spanner into Stanford’s works tomorrow. 

Because today I went over to the Calaveras County Fairgrounds and got one of those free Covid tests available to anyone. I have some travel ahead (more on that in a future entry), and before I depart I want to make sure I am not one of those asymptomatic carriers. 

I’d like to think Stanford will be concerned when news of my test reaches the Palo Alto campus. Maybe the Med School dean will reach out. 

“Chris, are you doing OK?” the dean’s email response might read. “You’ve been doing such a great job staying well up ’til now. Please let us know as soon as your test results come in. Meanwhile, can we send you some chicken soup?” 

As the survey uses “a simple web interface supported by a chatbot” and as no human will ever read my responses, this will not happen.  

Still, it’s nice to hear from the folks at my alma mater when they’re not asking for money. But just think of the added dimension a human touch would add.  

Consider this imaginary Stanford email: “Thanks again, Chris, for your steady stream of accurate and concise survey answers over the past six weeks. It has not escaped our notice that you’ve done far better on these daily quizzes than you ever did on tests you took when you were a student here back in the sixties.” 

Or this one: “As participants in this Stanford survey, we’d like to welcome you to the extended Cardinal Family and assure you that our 2020 football team will justify the faith you have placed in us. We will open the season against William and Mary (Last year: 10th place, Colonial Athletic Association), so should be undefeated for at least a week.” 

Or: “As our endowment is in some danger of sinking below $27 billion, sending a modest (or not-so-modest) gift along with your daily medical survey will draw little protest from the Stanford administration.”

OK, OK, enough with the cheap shots.  

The above notwithstanding, I do love my alma mater and think the survey – for which a non-Stanford friend recruited me – is a great idea.  So if you’re ready to join me and 250,000 more participants, simply call up “Stanford Daily Health Survey” on your laptop and enroll. 

And meanwhile, future members of the Cardinal Family, let’s not take that William and Mary game for granted. 





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