Making the case for ongoing telehealth: the flu is contagious

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Visiting a doctor’s office after a patient with flu-like illness appears to be a risk for getting sick, according to University of Minnesota research that could have implications for infection control and the use of online visits for primary care.

Researchers from the U, Harvard University and athenahealth, reviewed electronic medical records for 6,709 U.S. primary care clinics in 2016 and 2017 and found that people who visited their clinics the same day after patients with flu-like illnesses were more likely to return within two weeks with their own respiratory ailments.

The risk is only slight, as the rate of post-visit illnesses was 2.9 per 1,000 in people who visited clinics the same day after flu patients, compared with 2.2 per 1,000 in patients who visited clinics before flu patients. However, lead author Hannah Neprash said the nearly 32% difference in the rates was significant and provided some of the first documented evidence that clinics can be infection sources for patients — not just hospitals.

Seems like a good reason to promote continued telehealth, especially with folks with flu-like (or pandemic symptoms)…

Doctor visits in the study occurred well before the declaration in early 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Neprash said lessons learned in the pandemic could likely address the causes of infections in clinics. Mask-wearing in clinics could be one solution along with the continued use of telehealth services for basic primary care when appropriate.

“Maybe some of it should stick around even after we emerge from the pandemic,” Neprash said.

This entry was posted in Healthcare, MN, Policy, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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