Biosurveillance helps prepare for increase in flu cases

From left: Stanley Cho, Mark Swensen and Dr. Sal Pardo discuss the benefits of Northwell’s new flu surveillance dashboard.

Northwell Health has established an innovative biosurveillance system to track and respond to the huge volume of influenza cases coming into its hospitals on Long Island and New York City.  

The one-of-a-kind dashboard, developed by Stanley Cho, a senior data analyst at Northwell’s Krasnoff Quality Management Institute in collaboration with the health system’s emergency operations staff, provides Northwell with a proactive tool to help prepare for and respond to the surge in flu cases. 

Over the past seven days, for instance, the 12 Northwell hospitals that have been integrated into the tracking system have seen more than 10,500 patients with flu-like symptoms, of which about 2,700 were admitted for inpatient treatment. Five other acute-care hospitals that are part of Northwell Health will be integrated into the system in the coming months.

“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.”

Among other benefits, the system enables Northwell Health to proactively manage the distribution of resources, including supplies needed to treat patients and protect staff, such as antiviral medications, rapid-flu tests, masks and gloves. Based on the caseloads in each facility, the health system can also make informed decisions about assigning caregivers to cover those facilities experiencing staff shortages stemming from the flu, and placing flu patients together within certain treatment areas within the hospitals so they are separated from other patients, reducing the risk of spreading the virus.

In addition to tracking the number of patients who have either tested positive for the flu or presented with flu-like symptoms, the dashboard captures the strain of the virus and patients’ age, sex and the zip codes where they live. This gives Northwell’s emergency operations team the ability to identify communities where there is a high prevalence of the virus and the relative ages of those being affected – seniors, children, etc.

While the surveillance system is being used now for the flu, the comprehensive tool gives Northwell the ability to quickly identify any infectious diseases within any of its hospitals, enabling officials to rapidly prepare and respond to any public health emergency and coordinate efforts with local, state and federal health agencies.

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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, more than 650 outpatient facilities and nearly 15,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 66,000 employees – 15,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.

Contacts:    
Terry Lynam/Michelle Pinto
516-321-6702/516-321-6708
[email protected]/[email protected]