TriageLogic nurses are getting calls every day with patients who have flu-like symptoms. For young healthy patients, a diagnosis of influenza might mean a week of fever, coughing, body aches and resting on the couch, but for those 65 years and older, influenza can be much more serious. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 71 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. That age group also contributes to 54 to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations.
Older patients are often hesitant to get the vaccination for a variety of reasons. This is where all health care providers can make a difference. Educating and encouraging patients about the benefits of the vaccine will lead to more people receiving the vaccination. The more people who get vaccinated against the flu contributes to less cases of the virus that can spread through our communities. Patients should also be encouraged to call the office or on call nurse if symptoms arise.
Why are older patients at higher risk
The CDC estimates that last season’s flu vaccines reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor for illness related to the flu by 45 percent among people 65 and older. “People’s immune systems can become weaker with age, which places older adults at high risk of serious flu-related complications,” says Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer with CDC’s Influenza Division. Older patients will often have co-morbid conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and breathing conditions like emphysema and COPD, that place them at a higher risk for complications from influenza.
How to approach the topic of a flu shot
Despite increased education in the form of flyers, television commercials, health care personnel promoting the vaccine and pharmacies now offering the vaccine, there are still a few myths about the flu vaccine that pop up every season. Triage nurses can talk to patients about these issues.
Myth vs. Fact
Myth 1 : It will cause me to get the flu.
Fact : According to the CDC, the most common side effects from the influenza vaccines are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches but not influenza! Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’, and are therefore not infectious, or with no flu vaccine viruses at all, such as the recombinant influenza vaccine.
Myth 2 : I have never had the flu so I don’t need to worry about it.
Fact : You never know when you will be exposed to the influenza virus, but even if you dodge the virus this year, getting the vaccine will protect your family from getting it and it also protects people around you. This is especially helpful for, those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Myth 3 : It is too expensive.
Fact : The vaccine is covered by most insurance companies and is a benefit of Medicare. But even if you are not covered by insurance or your insurance will not cover the vaccination, it is usually offered for between $25-$35 at many local urgent care centers, health departments, grocery stores, and pharmacies. Patients with no health coverage can visit healthcare.gov to learn more about affordable health coverage.
Myth 4 : I can’t get into my doctor to get shot.
Fact : There are many easy and convenient locations, besides a physician office, where you can safely receive a flu shot. Many pharmacies, such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid offer the vaccination, as do some grocery stores such as Walmart, Harris Teeter and Farm Fresh. Urgent care centers and health departments will often give a flu shot quickly and will file insurance for you. Be sure to call your local stores to see if they offer the vaccine and if there is any up-front cost.
What type of vaccine is best for Older Patients?
Types of flu vaccines approved for use in people 65 and older:
- Standard dose flu shots, (including inactivated and recombinant shots)
- “High dose” flu shots (Fluzone® HighDose) Adjuvanted flu vaccine (Fluad™)
Flu vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older. There is an overwhelming amount of data showing that flu vaccination prevents illness and hospitalizations.
During the 2015-2016 flu season, it was estimated that 2 out of 3 people 65 and older got a flu vaccine. While this is among the highest vaccination rates for any age group, that still leaves about 11 million people 65 and older unvaccinated. Recent analysis at CDC has found that if vaccinations among people in this age group increased by five percent, an additional 35,000 illnesses and about 3,200 hospitalizations would be prevented. Talk with your patients about the importance of the influenza vaccination and don’t forget to prepare your office for the influx of patient calls and visits. Your office can use TriageLogic’s My Triage Checklist to efficiently streamline patient calls during office hours using industry standard triage protocols. Click here to see how TriageLogic can help manage your patient calls during and after office hours.
What to Read Next : Let TriageLogic Nurses Help Your Office Prepare for Flu Season