Source: CDC Fluview 2013-2014 Influenza Season Week 11 ending March 15, 2014
Source: CDC Fluview 2013-2014 Influenza Season Week 11 ending March 15, 2014

I was thinking the seasonal flu for the year was almost over, and then last week, I get flu. While looking at the CDS fluview, it continues to report a downward trend in its week 11 reports. Most of the states have almost had turned green, expect for Texas, and I just happened to be lucky in Texas.

When we carefully look at the trends of current seasonal flu based on the Influenza positive tests results reported to CDC, it shows that the last 2 months of 2013 had an upward trend and peaked at the end of the year and the downward trend started in the early weeks of year 2014.

Source: CDC Fluview 2013-2014 Influenza Season Week 11 ending March 15, 2014
Source: CDC Fluview 2013-2014 Influenza Season Week 11 ending March 15, 2014

Now, for a second, let’s think: what happens if the trend didn’t take a downward trend, but kept trending upwards – one of the typical situations that differentiate an epidemic or pandemic with a seasonal flu trend.

Pandemic is an epidemic occurring over a very wide area affecting large number of people. This can happen when new strains emerge for which people have very less resistance and there are no ready made vaccines available and hence the disease spreads while preventive and medical care is developed to overcome the situation.

According to flu.gov, each flu season, nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu, amounting to approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity. A pandemic could cause not just the financial cost of lost productivity, but also result in wide spread loss of life if not managed well.

While predicting the exact time for the next pandemic is impossible, preparing for one is an absolute must for businesses and communities to ensure the health of employees and citizens. WHO and CDC lead the effort in providing recommendations and checklists for pandemic preparedness.

While there are many parts to the strategies for preventing the spread of the disease and maintaining business continuity during a pandemic, one of the most important strategy is the Isolation and Quarantine Strategy.

The WHO checklist for influence pandemic preparedness planning, calls out for social distancing and quarantine, travel restrictions and at the same time stresses on maintaining essential services. This can be a challenge with conventional approaches of operations of in person services as your employees will be exposed to higher risk of getting the disease.

The key question is – how can you enable business continuity by maintaining essential services while managing your risk for your staff in the event of a pandemic?

Virtual care, leveraging collaboration technologies can be extremely useful in such situations to maintain essential services for patients and communities but limit the risk to your staff that is providing services by enabling social distancing.

Is your business prepared to respond to a pandemic? Is Virtual care in your strategy of pandemic preparedness?

Part 2 of this blog series will focus on few scenarios, key considerations and how Cisco’s healthcare focused care at a distance and patient engagement solutions can help maintain business continuity while enabling social distancing to help manage risk to your staff during a pandemic situation.


Rajesh Vargheese


Cisco Healthcare Solutions