Northwell Real-time Dashboard Pinpoints Flu Outbreaks

John Commins, February 7, 2018

In terms of how much we spent on it, I can't answer that. This is one of a number of projects we are working on. All of these are investments in our health system and the community and it's important to spend the money and do these types of things because it helps us to be more proactive with public health.

HLM: What metrics do you use to determine if the dashboard is working?

Swensen: We're tracking emergency department hold times; the time it takes for a patient to be admitted until they find a bed. That's a good measure of hospital load. To be able to determine what the load is allows us to respond to the hospital. If we are able to prevent the load from exceeding certain markers, then we have used it to our advantage. If I am able to move resources in a controlled manner, then we’re taking advantage of the system, which is allowing us to respond more normally as opposed to reactively.

HLM: Can the dashboard be used to pinpoint flu outbreaks outside of the hospital walls?

Swensen: Our electronic record tracks the home Zip Code of the patient. So, we are able to determine where these cases are living, and in doing so we can determine which communities are more at risk. If we determined a community is more at risk we can notify schools, the local health department, and any number of agencies that can help with the education and the outreach.

HLM: Can you build a historical record on Northwell’s flu response that could be referenced in future years?

Swensen: Absolutely! We can't just flip the switch and start using it. We need a baseline. Over the past 24 months we've established the baseline and what is normal for our area. Without that baseline we don't have any visibility as to whether or not we are looking at something that could be abnormal.

HLM: Could the dashboard track other diseases?

Swensen: Yes, it could expand. This is filtering information in the medical record. If we change that filter to look at some other syndrome or chief complaint, we could use it in other areas. I don't know of any plans to do that at this time, but it's possible.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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