The InFLUenza outbreak Communication, Advice and REporting app, also known as FluCARE, was developed over two years by medical professionals from the Public Health Unit at Sydney Local Health District.
Described as a game-changer by the creators, this app could potentially minimise the mortality rates of elderly residents in nursing homes during flu outbreaks.
This year has been described as a high flu season by the Immunisation Coalition who estimated over 4,000 people would die from influenza in 2019, making this season the worst in a decade.
The pilot of the app could better protect vulnerable elderly residents from contracting influenza, prevent the further spread of the virus or minimise the effect and risk of the flu.
Sydney Local Health District Epidemiologist Dr Emma Quinn says, “The app has been created to help staff at residential aged care facilities quickly recognise and respond to an outbreak of the flu, which is critical to minimise its spread and impact.
“By acting sooner, we’ll be better able to contain the spread of the disease and we hope to be able to prevent hospitalisations and deaths.”
The app was designed, implemented and evaluated at The Pitch, the Sydney Local Health District’s quarterly funding challenge for innovative ideas of staff, which won the project a $48,000 grant for the Public Health Unit in 2017.
Nursing home staff at participating facilities will record data over a 12 month period, featuring suspected cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) and flu among residents.
The app has an algorithm to analyse the provided data in real time and will automatically trigger an influenza alert if the criteria of an outbreak matches the analysed data.
Email notifications will be automatically sent to key response personel, like the facility manager, the District’s on-call public health officer and designated GPs, to provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, health security for residents within participating nursing homes.
Along with the email notifications, staff members of an affected facility will receive an action checklist to be implemented immediately.
The District’s Public Health Unit will offer further advice to any facility that receives an outbreak alert and provide additional infection control measures and advice.
The app will streamline the reporting process in nursing homes and help reduce workload stress for aged care staff.
During the pilot, the app will be refined through interaction by nursing home staff and assessed for its effectiveness in containing outbreaks before a full rollout of FluCARE to all residential aged care facilities in the Sydney Local Health District in 2020.
Sydney Local Health District Public Health Unit Clinical Director, Dr Leena Gupta, describes FluCARE as a “game-changer”.
“It also has the potential to be adapted to respond to other outbreaks, like a gastroenteritis outbreak in a childcare centre, which are of public health concern in the District. It could be applicable beyond our District. It has the potential to be implemented across New South Wales,” says Dr Gupta.