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Be Telehealth-Ready for “Twindemic” — When Influenza and COVID-19 Collide

eVisit Staff

Written by eVisit Staff

Published: Nov. 13, 2020

The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has warned that this will likely be the "most important flu season of our lifetimes." The worst-case scenario is that surges in COVID-19 cases this winter will fill intensive care units, leaving less capacity for patients who need to be hospitalized for flu symptoms, or with other severe injury or illness. As healthcare leaders already know, a bad flu season or even a moderate one could crush an already strained public health system and result in more lives lost.

It’s being called a “twindemic” when influenza and a second COVID spike appear simultaneously. In an article that appeared on ScientificAmerican.com, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, MD, said, “I do think the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.” He’s not alone. This month, Anthony Fauci, MD, America’s infectious disease expert as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, warned about the “dreaded overlap” of these highly infectious diseases.

Possible "Twindemic"?

The 2020-21 flu season is already here and likely to peak from December to February. With COVID-19 hospitalization rates continuing to rise in many areas of the country, the timing could pose a serious problem for hospitals and health systems. It’s important to be telehealth-ready with a virtual care platform that can help deliver patient care and maintain business continuity.

In a bad flu season, 40 to 50 million Americans may catch the virus. Since 2010, the disease has killed 12,000 to 61,000 people annually and has hospitalized between 140,000 and 810,000. Comparing hospitalization and death rates from the 2018-19 flu season to current COVID-19 rates, here's how the numbers stack up.



Flu (2018-19 season)1

COVID-19 (as of Nov. 5, 2020)2







1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2 The COVID Tracking Project

This Year’s Flu Shot

Health officials and medical groups are urging people to get the flu vaccine to blunt the effects of seasonal flu on our public health system. A high level of compliance could make a big difference in whether a twindemic materializes.

Another factor is how effective this year's flu vaccine is against the virus. That will depend on how accurately scientists have predicted the circulating flu strains, and we won’t know the answer for a while. Over the past decade, flu vaccines have averaged a 44 percent efficacy rate. Even that level of efficacy can dramatically decrease community spread. But the more people who get vaccinated, the better, health experts say.

The vaccine's effectiveness can vary from person to person, depending on their age and health. And even if the vaccine doesn't prevent someone from getting the flu, it may make the symptoms less serious. According to the CDC, in the 2018-19 flu season, about 49 percent of Americans received a flu vaccine, averting an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths.

Virtual Care Help

No matter what flu season holds, one thing is certain: this winter, patients will be seeking care for the symptoms of flu and COVID-19. Since March 2020, COVID-19 has forced hospitals and health systems into telehealth at a rapid rate. Many chose a two-way video-only solution, which may have seemed a cost-effective solution at the time, but as an organization moves through thousands of virtual visits a month, they quickly learned that the inefficiency and labor costs don’t match up. Or you mobilized virtual care, but don’t have full coverage across your specialty areas and services lines. Maybe your telehealth solution needs a tune-up with another look at processes and when and where to apply virtual care approaches for maximum benefit. Planning now will let you operate a hybrid of care services brick-and-mortar and virtual care to best serve your patients.

Healthcare organizations across the nation can be ready with a robust virtual care platform that expands access to care, reduces the need for in-person clinic visits, lowers community infection risks by keeping more sick people at home, and maintains a healthcare organization’s business continuity.

Need a more robust telehealth platform? Need to engage with our Virtual Care strategists to enhance your current operational approach?

Learn more about the eVisit Virtual Care platform or schedule a demo at eVisit.com.




Published: November 13, 2020