athenahealth taps EHR data to track flu

Tracks one million visits per week, to 20,000 primary care providers nationwide
By Bernie Monegain
10:17 AM
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Flu season is coming early this year. That forecast comes from data collected by health IT company athenahealth.

[See also: Flu season approaches, and Google is ahead of the curve]

The company has reported early signs of influenza based on patient visit data from its cloud network.

Athenahealth tracks about a million visits a week to 20,000 primary care physicians across the country who use the Watertown, Mass.-based company’s cloud-based electronic health record.

[See also: athenahealth adds safety reporting]

The most recent data for the week ending Nov. 22 showed that flu-like illness rates are rising across the country.

Writing on the athenahealth blog, Iyue Sung, director of athenahealth's athenaResearch, noted that flu-like symptoms are particularly prevalent now among children, with the percent of visits to pediatricians rising from 2.8 percent to 3.5 percent, this past week alone.

“Flu is more widespread among children this year than last and rapidly approaching rates seen in the difficult flu season of 2012-2013,” Sung wrote.

The athenahealth data showed that flu is climbing most in the Midwest region, where the situation appears to be similar to the 2012-2013 season.

It’s because athenahealth is a cloud-based company that it is able to report on disease trends such as this one with minimal delay, Sung wrote, adding: "We will monitor our data and provide flu updates throughout the holidays."