Northwell rolls out one-of-a-kind flu tracker for Long Island, NYC

Great Neck, N.Y.-based Northwell Health established a one-of-a-kind biosurveillance system to track the large number of flu patients presenting at Northwell hospitals in Long Island and New York City.

The biosurrveillance dashboard allows Northwell to track flu cases at integrated hospitals to more efficiently manage the distribution of resources, such as antiviral medications, rapid-flu tests, masks and gloves. The dashboard also allows the health system to make informed decisions about where to funnel additional staff members and where to house flu patients throughout the hospital.

"The new flu surveillance dashboard gives Northwell the ability to see what's going on in near real-time," said Mark Swensen, an emergency management coordinator at Northwell who helped develop the system. "This is an important tool that helps us in terms of planning and managing patient care."

The surveillance system allows Northwell to track both the number of positive flu deaths and the number of patients who present at hospitals with flu-like symptoms. In the future, the surveillance system will be used to track the spread of infectious disease beyond flu, enabling Northwell to better respond to public health crises and coordinate efforts with state, local and federal health officials.

As of Tuesday, 12 Northwell hospitals have adopted the tracking system and treated 10,500 patients with flu-like symptoms. Five more of the health system's acute-care hospitals are poised to link up with the tracking system in the coming months.

Last week, the number of people hospitalized with flu-like illness increased from 6.6 percent to 7.1 percent, the third highest rate of flu-related hospitalizations recorded in the last 15 years, according to the CDC. 

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