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New technology helps track flu on Long Island

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Kristin Thorne introudces us to a new system that tracks the flu.

A bio surveillance system that tracks the flu was unveiled Tuesday by administrators at Northwell Health on Long Island.

The dashboard tracks all patients within the Northwell Health system who are experiencing flu-like symptoms. It also maps confirmed flu cases of Northwell patients.

"Our ability to react and implement our plans is contingent upon good information," Northwell's emergency management coordinator Mark Swensen said.

Swensen said the system has already helped administrators move resources like face masks, hand sanitizer and Tamiflu to hospitals that are experiencing higher volume of flu patients.

In the last week, the system has tracked nearly 11,000 patients with flu-like symptoms, of which about 2,700 were admitted for inpatient treatment.

The dashboard allows hospital staff to see the data in almost real time. Confirmed flu cases are returned within two hours from Northwell labs rather than one or two weeks from New York State labs.

"We can pinpoint exactly what communities and what hospitals are experiencing spikes, in terms of both location and time," said Stanley Cho, whose team of data analysts at Northwell developed the tracking system.

Administrators are also watching the system closely to see if they have to increase staffing at one of their hospitals.

"It gives us the ability to determine where these patients geographically are located and allows us to then forecast where the next pocket of case rate uptick is going to be," Swensen said.

Northwell Health said it will be sharing the data with local and state agencies.

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