Athenahealth to Monitor Diseases in Wake of Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown has resulted in the furlough of almost 70 percent of the CDC's workforce.

The continuing shutdown of the U.S. federal government has led to a host of lost services affecting several areas, naturally including health and human services as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leading Athenahealth, a provider of cloud-based services for electronic health records (EHRs), to step in.

The company's network comprises clinical, operational and business performance data from nearly 44,000 medical providers and 40 million patient records nationwide. All initial flu findings and ongoing monitoring can be found on the company's blog, part of its effort to monitor and share population health information from across its national health care big data asset.

The partial government shutdown has resulted in the furlough of almost 70 percent of the CDC's workforce. The CDC's main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury and disability, with a focus on infectious disease, food-borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, and educational activities.

The CDC's director issued a tweet recently announcing that the furlough has affected 8,754 staff members, and noted that these workers are thus unable to alert and protect citizens from health threats.

"The CDC normally provides weekly reports on flu activity across the country. This information is critical to effectively track outbreaks and encourage public vaccination," Josh Gray, vice president of AthenaResearch at Athenahealth, said in a statement. "Every season is unpredictable. We hope the CDC is restored to full capacity as soon as possible. In the meantime we'll leverage Athenahealth's cloud-based technology to report on disease patterns across our national network."

In 2009, flu cases started accumulating in late summer/early fall. And given the potential for unique variants, such as the swine or avian flu, every season is unpredictable, making regular CDC flu reports essential, Iyue Sung, Athenahealth's director of core analytics, noted in a company blog post.

"We believe that our data provides a reliable view of seasonal flu trends. Last year, we wrote about the 2012-2013 flu season and found that patterns in our patient population closely mirrored CDC trends. With that in mind, we believe that sharing our 2013-2014 data will be valuable to the health care community," he wrote. "Whether our nation's politicians can come to an agreement tomorrow or next month, we will continue to deliver reports that monitor population health and look ahead to contributing any information we can."