FluCARE – improving reporting and management of influenza outbreaks in RACFs

15 July 2019

The Sydney Local Health District Public Health Unit (PHU) is currently piloting an application that allows RACFs to improve their identification, reporting and management of influenza outbreaks. If you have patients in RACFs participating in the pilot, you can register to receive notifications alerting you of influenza outbreaks as they are identified.

What is FluCARE?

FluCARE is a web-based application which allows RACF staff to enter details of any resident with a febrile or respiratory illness. This online record replicates the current Excel spreadsheet line-listings used for outbreak surveillance, in a more accessible and user friendly format. This system also ensures reliable handover and aggregation of the key information needed for outbreak recognition across shifts/workdays. With this recorded data, FluCARE’s algorithms can immediately recognise when the criteria for an outbreak is fulfilled and automatically send email notifications to key response personnel, including the RACF manager, on-call public health officer, PHU, and GPs. RACF staff will also receive an action checklist on their FluCARE dashboard to guide their immediate response.

Why use FluCARE?

As you know, influenza outbreaks can rapidly spread through RACFs causing significant illness to their elderly residents. During an outbreak, 15-23 per cent of affected residents can end up hospitalised and 4-12 per cent die. Early outbreak recognition and response are critical in minimising an outbreak’s spread and impact. Currently, delays of up to 11 days (median three days) in outbreak recognition at RACFs occur, with consequent delays in control measure implementation, Public Health Unit (PHU) notification and contacting GPs, to initiate influenza testing, vaccinations and anti-viral prescriptions.

What do I have to do?

At this stage, FluCARE is a pilot program, and some RACFs have signed on to participate. Its evaluation has been approved by the SLHD Ethics Committee and, pending evaluation results, will potentially be expanded and rolled out more comprehensively across Sydney Local Health District and NSW if successful.

If you would like to be involved, your details can be incorporated into the contact list by your RACF in the application so that if there is an influenza outbreak in the facility where you have a patient, you will receive an automatic email notification. This will hopefully allow you to communicate early with the facility and plan your time and management more effectively, with the aim to optimise patient care.

So how does FluCARE work?

FluCARE is a web-based program through which RACF staff are able to access their facility-specific FluCARE dashboard. From here, they can access FluCARE’s core feature – the online line listing, a much more user-friendly version than the current Excel spreadsheet that is widely used.

This offers multiple other advantages including:

  • Easy one-click submission, with the line-listing immediately viewable by the PHU
  • A reduction in the time-consuming emails, printing or faxing that the current system generates. FluCARE is programed to use the submitted data to automatically recognize cases of influenza-like illness, and to recognise when outbreak criteria are met and send notifications to relevant stakeholders, facilitating a collaborative response. This relieves RACF staff from time-consuming phone calls; freeing them to focus on caring for the residents. FluCARE also immediately delivers an action checklist to the facility’s FluCARE dashboard; empowering facility staff to take immediate action. 

GP notifications will allow GPs to have immediate knowledge about outbreaks in the RACFs where they have patients, and plan their clinical care and their day, accordingly, ensuring faster care and better patient outcomes.

If you are interested in hearing more please contact:

Isis Maitland-Scott, Public Health Advanced Trainee

isis.maitlandscott@health.nsw.gov.au / (02) 9515 9420