The tridemic is here—are you ready? By taking steps to understand the tridemic, and the effects it’s having on healthcare, your organization can better prepare for and manage the likely increase in utilization of emergency departments, pediatric practices, and inpatient hospital stays.
What is the tridemic?
The tridemic is the unofficial name that has been given to the rise in cases of three different illnesses—influenza (the flu), COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Flu and RSV cases comprise the majority of circulating illnesses, as COVID numbers have been stable recently.
Alone, each of these illnesses can tax an already strained healthcare system. Together, they have the potential to cripple healthcare infrastructure due to worsening illness severity and sheer number of cases.
Rising numbers in cases have been reported in Canada and in half of the United States. As the holidays and colder weather quickly approach, and with them a likely increase in indoor celebrations, experts fear that tridemic numbers will continue to rise.
Triple threat: the flu, COVID-19, and RSV
The respiratory illness influenza, better known as the flu, has long been an unwelcome guest in homes, hospitals, schools, and workplaces. It’s tough to track precise numbers, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu has been responsible for as many as 41 million illnesses, 710,000 hospitalizations, and 52,000 deaths annually between 2010 and 2020. They also reported also that there have been at least 2.8 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths from the flu as of November 5 of this year.
Another respiratory illness, RSV, is a leading cause of illness in infants, and is the single most common cause of hospitalization during infancy. Experts noted that this year, the country is experiencing a higher rate of RSV, especially in children.
Since emerging in 2019, COVID-19 brought about a global pandemic. It causes respiratory symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening, along with various other symptoms.
These viruses are more dangerous to the very young, older adults, the immunocompromised, and those with co-morbidities.
Across the US, in Canada, and in other locations, the tridemic has impacted emergency departments, pediatrician practices, and inpatient units that struggle to manage overflowing waiting rooms, rises in cases, lack of inpatient beds, and staffing shortages. But there are steps you can take:
- Make a plan: If your area of the country has not yet been exposed to the tridemic, recognize that sooner rather than later the tridemic will likely take root in your healthcare facility. Gather clinical and administrative leadership and assess your risk based on local health department numbers and other evidence. Seek input from clinicians, especially ‘front line’ staff, about issues related to patient care and patient and staff safety, staffing needs, community outreach and education, and prevention efforts.
- Fortify your emergency department: One of the major operational, and subsequently clinical, problems caused by the tridemic is the high-utilization of emergency departments. Assess your department’s ability to respond to the increased numbers and severity of patients. Determine how you can best triage patients, limit disease spread in overcrowded waiting rooms, re-direct less severe cases to primary or urgent care facilities, and help staff manage the stress of high-pressure environments.
- Adapt COVID guidelines to the tridemic: Although, at the present time, the flu and RSV have emerged as more frequent reasons for concern than COVID-19, there are still some key takeaways from the pandemic that can be introduced, strengthened, or implemented to help your facility and community control the spread of illnesses. These suggestions include encouraging flu vaccines, COVID vaccines, and boosters; re-instituting masking policies; promoting infection prevention efforts such as proper handwashing and sanitizing of spaces and equipment; encouraging staff to stay home when ill; monitoring local infection rate data; and educating your community about prevention techniques.
Learn more about ECRI's COVID-19 guidance and resources.