A team from the Public Health Unit at Sydney Local Health District has developed an application to help staff at nursing homes rapidly recognise and respond to an outbreak of the flu.

The InFLUenza outbreak Communication, Advice and Reporting web-based app was developed over a period of two years with the help of a nearly $50,000 grant.

The FluCARE app will undergo a one-year trial phase at up to 30 nursing homes in the district, during which nursing home staff will record data about suspected cases of influenza-like illness and flu among their residents.

The app's algorithm can analyse the data in real time and automatically trigger alerts when the criteria for an outbreak is reached, sending email notifications to key response personnel like the facility's manager, in addition to alerting the district's on-call public health officer and designated general practitioners.

"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," Sydney Local Health District epidemiologist Dr. Emma Quinn said in a statement.

The app, which made its debut at the Sydney Innovation and Research Symposium last Friday, was designed to also help streamline the reporting process, which could in turn reduce the workload on nursing home staff.

In addition, the app will distribute an action checklist to guide the facility staff's immediate response, and nursing home staff will help further refine the app during the pilot ahead of FluCARE's planned rollout to all of the district's nursing homes next year.

"It's 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," its Public Health Unit clinical director Dr. Leena Gupta said in a statement. "And, it could be applicable beyond our District. It has the potential to be implemented across NSW."

The application is one of many being rolled out this year in the country with aims of providing services from telehealth to helping with disease diagnosis.

A mobile application developed by researchers at the Joondalup Health Campus and Princess Margaret Hospitals has used artificial intelligence to accurately diagnose common respiratory disorders in children.

The AI platform was able to diagnose pneumonia with 87 percent accuracy and asthma with 97 percent accuracy – both surpassing the diagnosing standards of the World Health Organization.

Also in June, a research team from Deakin University's School of Nursing and Midwifery announced it had developed and tested a "Carer Guide" mobile phone app, which provides guidance for carers looking after people with cancer.



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