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Vanderbilt’s Flu Tool valuable resource for treatment decisions

Jan. 10, 2013, 9:30 AM

As flu cases spike in Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt University Medical Center would like to remind patients and staff about a valuable online resource for assessing the severity of flu symptoms — the Flu Tool.

“Influenza has come earlier and is worse this year than in years past. It’s classic influenza, but we’re seeing a lot of sick people,” said S. Trent Rosenbloom, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Biomedical Informatics, Medicine and Pediatrics.

Vanderbilt employee Rosalind Kohl gets a flu shot from Occupational Health nurse Valerie Thayer outside the Eskind Library. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

“The goal of the Flu Tool is to give patients a more focused decision for treatment based on symptoms. After answering a couple of questions, the tool helps them decide if it’s just a standard case of flu, and they should call their provider and go on antiviral medication, or if they need general advice for home care, or if there are red flags that indicate something more serious, like pneumonia.”

The Flu Tool is available at vanderbilthealth.com/flutool, and can also be accessed through myhealthatvanderbilt.com, childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/vanderbilthealth.

The Flu Tool was developed during the 2010-2011 flu season, following the H1N1 epidemic during which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended patients with flu should not visit the doctor’s office but go directly on antiviral medication.

VUMC leveraged its strong informatics infrastructure to launch the Flu Tool in the online medical records portal My Health at Vanderbilt. Since its debut, the Flu Tool has been used more than 9,600 times.

“The tool has been well-used for the first couple of years, but we’re seeing that many Vanderbilt patients and staff still don’t know about it,” said Sue Muse, co-director of My Health at Vanderbilt.

“It’s a valuable tool for everyone and could help so many people save a visit to the doctor’s office. We want to get the word out so people realize this tool is available.”

The CDC is currently reporting high levels of flu activity in the Southeastern region.
Activity in Tennessee is reported as “regional,” although surrounding states are at “widespread” activity levels. Flu typically peaks in January and February.

Typical flu symptoms include fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, and the CDC recommends staying away from others for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

In addition to using the Flu Tool, Rosenbloom has another recommendation:
“It’s never too late to get your flu shot,” he said.

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