Krista McNallyFeb 6, 2018, 7:38 pmFeb 7, 2018, 1:21 pm

Northwell Health doctors can now track flu in real time

Medical staff uses data to filter cases by zip code

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GREAT NECK — In one week alone, 12 Northwell Health hospitals have seen more than 10,500 patients with flu-like symptoms. Two-thousand-seven-hundred of those patients were admitted to the hospital. That real-time data is available thanks to a one of a kind dashboard that Northwell Health developed to get the upper hand on the flu battle.

"Ultimately this dashboard has given us visibility to an uptick in case rates," said Mark Swensen, emergency management coordinator of Northwell Health.

It provides real-time data, with a map that allows medical staff to filter by zip code so they can see exactly where the flu cases are. The information is used for planning and managing patient care.

"We have resources at those unaffected facilities that emergency management can bring to facilities that are affected,” Swensen said. “Hand sanitizer, Tamiflu. We have been able to move that stuff from facility to facility based on the need we found through this dashboard."

It also allows hospitals to send staff to highly affected areas.

"It allows us to understand how to cohort our patients at the hospital and to staff up or down. Maybe bring in extra staff or open up extra units," said Dr. Salvatore Pardo, vice chair of emergency medicine at North Shore University Hospital.

The current flu season has the highest proportion of people looking for healthcare since 2009. Dr. Pardo says people should take precautions when entering a hospital to avoid infection.

"When you walk into any ER, there are masks available and that is the best thing you can do even if you are not sick," he said.

All of the flu strains seen in the northeast are covered by the current flu vaccine. It is estimated to be about 30 percent effective and can make the symptoms less severe.

"If you haven't already gotten a flu shot you should still get one," Northwell Health data analyst Stanley Cho urged.

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