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Cloud Analytics: Flu Season Trends Follow-Up

by Iyue Sung, PhD, Director of athenaResearch

Two weeks ago, our Cloud Analytics team presented some flu season trends right here in the blog, and discovered that others had great interest in our findings and figures. Now that the flu is past its peak, let’s dig into some more data to take a broader look at flu vaccinations: We’ll compare flu rates for patients who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t.

We’ll limit our discussion to pediatrics, given that most children receive their vaccinations in the doctor’s office (see Figure 1). By doing so, this means that our data on vaccination rates best reflect national rates for children. We can see this in the fact that our vaccination rate for children via athenaNet data—37%—is similar to the CDC’s estimate of 40% (Figure 2). We can also see, not surprisingly, that we underestimate rates for adults since they tend to get their shots from a variety of alternative locations.

Cloud Analytics: Flu Vaccination LocationsCloud Analytics: Flu Vaccination Rates for Children
Source for Figure 1 and Figure 2: CDC

So, how did vaccinated children fare this season, compared to unvaccinated children? 2.5% of children who were unvaccinated were later diagnosed with the flu, while only 0.9% of vaccinated children were diagnosed with the flu (Figure 3).

Cloud Analytics: Percentage of Patient with Flu

This means that patients who get the flu vaccine are 63% less likely to get the flu (0.9% is 63% less than 2.5%). This 63% figure is what is commonly referred to as the “effectiveness” of the vaccine. Now, 2.5% and 0.9% may seem like low percentages, but in a population of millions, those translate into large numbers. And those large numbers are why the flu is a public health issue.

We’ll continue to dig into the data on our cloud-based network to determine trends, analyze results and report back to you. Want to know more about the pool of information we refer to? Check out our first Cloud Analytics blog post from November 2012 for details.

As a statistician, Iyue is responsible for methodology, analytic infrastructure, and extracting data-driven insights from the athenahealth patient database. 

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