Rapid testing to diagnose influenza leads to more appropriate care in the ED

November 14, 2013, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society

When patients in the emergency department (ED) are diagnosed with influenza by means of a rapid test, they get fewer unnecessary antibiotics, are prescribed antiviral medications more frequently, and have fewer additional lab tests compared to patients diagnosed with influenza without testing, according to a new study. Published online in the Journal of the Pediatrics Infectious Diseases Society, the findings suggest that diagnosing influenza with a rapid diagnostic test leads to more appropriate, specific, and efficient care.

In the study, researchers used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a nationally representative sample of ED visits in the U.S. They identified children and adults across three influenza seasons (2007-2009) who were diagnosed with influenza in the ED. They looked at how the patients were diagnosed—either with the use of a rapid influenza test or without it—and the subsequent care they received.

Among patients diagnosed with influenza without rapid testing, 23 percent of the ED visits included a prescription for antibiotics, which are not effective in treating influenza, a viral infection. However, for patients who were diagnosed by rapid testing, only 11 percent of ED visits resulted in the patient getting antibiotics. Additional laboratory tests, including chest X-rays, blood tests, and urinalysis, were also ordered less frequently for patients whose influenza illness was diagnosed with a .

Notably, prescriptions for antiviral drugs, which can be effective in treating influenza when used early and appropriately, were more frequent (56 percent of ED visits) among patients diagnosed with influenza using a rapid test, compared to antiviral use among influenza patients diagnosed without testing (19 percent of ED visits).

"When results of influenza tests are available to physicians at the 'point of care,' they use this information to provide more appropriate patient management," said lead study author Anne J. Blaschke, MD, PhD, of the University of Utah School of Medicine. "While other studies have shown that physicians can accurately diagnose influenza without testing, our results suggest that using an influenza increases diagnostic certainty and leads to the physician providing more specific and appropriate care."

The study suggests a significant impact from rapid influenza testing on physician decision making, , and use of health care resources, the authors wrote, despite the limited sensitivity of currently available rapid tests, which miss a number of true cases of influenza. The development of more accurate and faster tests for influenza available at the bedside could further improve care for patients with influenza or other respiratory illness, they noted.

The researchers' findings build on previous studies by others, focused primarily on children, that found that rapid testing can influence patient care in specific settings. This latest study breaks new ground, Dr. Blaschke said, by using nationwide data and by demonstrating that the findings apply to both adults and children, and across different practice types.

Explore further: CDC: Influenza activity increasing across the U.S.

Related Stories

CDC: Influenza activity increasing across the U.S.

January 5, 2013
(HealthDay)—Flu season descended on the United States early and hard this winter, with significant increases in flu activity observed over the past month, according to an update issued Jan. 4 by the U.S. Centers for Disease ...

CDC: 2012-2013 flu vaccine not as effective in elderly

February 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Vaccination against influenza for the 2012/2013 flu season appears to be moderately effective in reducing the need for outpatient medical attention, but the effect is lower in the elderly, according to research ...

CDC: Flu activity continues to be high across the United States

January 19, 2013
(HealthDay)—Flu remains at epidemic proportions across the United States, but flu activity decreased in some areas during the second week of January, according to FluView, a weekly influenza surveillance report prepared ...

CDC: Flu activity still up in U.S. in fourth week of 2013

February 4, 2013
(HealthDay)—In the fourth week of 2013, influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, with the proportion of pneumonia and influenza-linked deaths above the epidemic threshold, according to FluView, a weekly ...

Flu vaccination protects patients at risk for acute MI

August 22, 2013
(HealthDay)—Recent influenza does not predict acute myocardial infarction (AMI), but vaccination offers a significant protective benefit for the prevention of AMI, according to research published online Aug. 21 in Heart.

Kids with neuro disorders no more likely to get flu vaccine

September 16, 2013
(HealthDay)—Although children with neurologic conditions are at high risk for complications of influenza infection, only half were vaccinated during the 2011 to 2012 influenza season, according to a report published in ...

Recommended for you

Study shows changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children

November 13, 2018
An international team of researchers has found changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their ...

Your 6-month-old isn't sleeping through the night? Relax

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

Some activity fine for kids recovering from concussions, docs say

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children and teens who suffer a sports-related concussion should reduce, but not eliminate, physical and mental activity in the days after their injury, an American Academy of Pediatrics report says.

Breast milk and babies' saliva shape oral microbiome

November 8, 2018
Newborn breastfed babies' saliva combines with breastmilk to release antibacterial compounds that help to shape the bacterial communities (microbiota) in babies' mouths, biomedical scientists have found.

Preschool children show awake responses to naptime nonsense words

November 7, 2018
Of all of our senses, hearing is the only one that has long been suspected as being "on" all the time—even in our sleep. Sounds that occur during the night have a way of registering in the brain. Now a group of scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.