athenahealth flu dashboard
As usual, the U.S. flu season begins just as most Americans are gathering with friends and family for the holidays. With notable overlap between influenza-like symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms, it is imperative that clinicians and patients remain vigilant when it comes to influenza-like illness (ILI).
Given that data show symptomatic patients may be spreading ILI in the doctor’s office, clinicians may want to consider telehealth or other socially distanced screening approaches.
In part due to pandemic-initiated restrictions and social distancing, the 2020-21 flu season had some of the fewest cases and lowest transmission in recent memory. The question is, will 2021-22 be the same?
athenahealth is tracking the spread of the flu throughout the U.S. using athenahealth’s network to measure influenza-like symptoms across 1.4 million patient visits per week among more than 25,000 pediatricians, primary care providers, and emergency medical providers.
So far in 2021, flu-like symptoms are showing up in a higher percentage of office visits than in 2020, across athenahealth’s network. By August, ILI represented roughly 2% of visits in warmer states like Hawaii and Mississippi. By November, higher rates continued in Mississippi and rose in locations like Louisiana and Oklahoma. Early 2021 data show ILI visits higher than 2020 as a percentage of visits, but not yet spiking as it did in November and December of 2019. It remains to be seen if 2021 will see a similar spike, remain flat, or land somewhere in between – and much will depend on the impact of new COVID-19 variants, mask usage, and social distancing.
If COVID-19 demonstrated anything, it was that patient outreach should use multiple channels and be more tailored to specific patient populations — and vaccination efforts must be comprehensive. Efforts to control the spread of ILI can surely make use of tools and insights gleaned from the pandemic.
The interactive graphics above show data on patient visits involving ILI by state on a weekly basis and a line chart with year-over-year comparisons to past flu seasons – click on the buttons at the top to switch between the Map and Comparison views.
Our methodology: Using diagnosis codes from insurance claims data at the state and national level, the dashboard quantifies how many patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) are seen by a provider and estimates the proportion of symptomatic patients as a portion of all patients seen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines influenza-like illnesses either a specific diagnosis of influenza or a fever co-presenting with a cough or sore throat, which is how ILI symptomatic patients have been defined in this dataset.