Flu outbreak. Young girls using paper tissues while being sick

Every year, thousands of children are hospitalized because of the flu; several dozen to more than 100 children die each year from complications.

Tweet: How analytics can help during flu outbreaks

It’s important for health providers not only to know which children need to be vaccinated, but also to understand where there are flu outbreaks and how they might need to readjust their staffing to deal with surges in flu patients. How can they do so? Let’s take a look.

3 ways analytics can help

Analytics can enable healthcare providers make more informed and smarter decisions when it comes to the flu. Here are three ways data can help.

Vaccines

Analytics solutions, such as Diver Platform, can pull data out of your EHR on which children have been vaccinated for certain conditions (such as the flu), and which children have not been vaccinated. As a result, staff can be notified when children are not up to date on their vaccine schedules and can proactively contact them for appointments. This is especially important for children with certain conditions such as asthma or other conditions that weaken their immune systems.

Monitoring outbreaks

Analytics can also monitor flu diagnoses from the EHR and map them on a heatmap. This can provide a visual look at which areas are seeing the most flu patients, and can allow your organization to staff physicians’ offices accordingly. For example, if you notice more flu patients in one coverage area, offices in that location can adjust their hours to stay open later or on the weekends, or you can send additional staff to that area to better service patients.

Example of a heat map in Diver Platform

Coordination between hospital and clinics

Similarly, you can use analytics to track symptoms of patients who are coming in, and communicate those symptoms out to your clinics. That way your staff will be better prepared to treat patients and understand the characteristics of an outbreak.

Other flu resources

In addition, you can use data outside of your EHR to help provide your staff with information during flu season. For example, the CDC provides national flu trends data which is available in a downloadable format if you want to manipulate and visualize it yourself. It is also available in a map format. The graphic below shows the CDC data over a period of six weeks in December and January, displaying the increase and waning of flu reports over that period.

Flu trends data from the CDC over a six-week period

Another website that can provide some information is Flu Near You. This website provides crowdsourced flu reports. As such, it should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it can provide some overall trends on whether flu reports are increasing or decreasing in your area.

Crowdsourced flu reports from FluNearYou.org

Learn more

To learn more about how analytics can help during flu outbreaks, as well as other uses of analytics to benefit the pediatric population, please download our ebook, “10 Challenges for Children’s Hospitals and How Analytics Built on Data Trust Can Help Solve Them.”

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Kathy Sucich

Kathy is director of healthcare marketing at Dimensional Insight. She graduated from Dartmouth College and is currently pursuing her MBA in health sector management at Boston University. Kathy is also communications chair for the Massachusetts chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Kathy Sucich
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