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Let TriageLogic Nurses Help Your Office Prepare for Flu Season
By : Marci Lawing RN BSN
The pumpkins are out and the leaves are beginning to change, this means the “flu- season” is upon us. Every year between November and April doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers see an increase in the number of patients who have flu-like symptoms. The CDC estimates that in 2015, across all age groups, there were 40 million flu illnesses, 19 million flu-associated medical visits and almost one hundred thousand flu-associated hospitalizations.
While it is still early in this year’s influenza season, our triage nurses have seen small localized outbreaks in the last two weeks, so this is a perfect time to start talking about the flu. Making sure that your office and staff have the tools needed to be prepared for this upsurge in patient calls will save you time, money, and most importantly ensure the best care for your patients. These tools include having a standardized plan, like the TriageLogic myTriageChecklist™, and patient education. We have included a flu season information handout for your patients.
Follow a standardized plan
Your office should use a tool, such as the myTriage Checklist™, to standardize the questions that patients calling with flu-like symptoms are asked by your staff. This telephone triage software helps nurses deliver consistent and thorough documentation of every call, regardless of which staff member answers or at what time of day. When a patient calls your office, your nurse enters symptom “keywords” to quickly access the correct protocol. Using this protocol checklist, the nurse will ask your patient all the right questions and direct them to appropriate level of care. Call documentation can easily be printed or transferred to your existing EMR system, which also helps ensure HIPAA compliance while saving time.
If your office staff is unable to handle the increased call volume or you want your patients to have access to care afterhours, TriageLogic offers Nurse Triage On Call. This service provides your patients with 24/7 access to experienced registered nurses to ensure the appropriate level of care. These nurses will even fully document the call details and send the encounter to your office.
Educate patients about the Flu
What is it? : The influenza virus is a respiratory illness which can cause a sudden onset of chills, fever, body aches, and coughing. It does not tend to cause vomiting and diarrhea as many people believe, the gastrointestinal virus is not the same as influenza.
Stay Away : Patients should be encouraged to avoid people that are coughing or appear ill. Many people will try to continue with their regular activities when they don’t feel well, including going to work, the gym, or the grocery store. Your staff should encourage their patients that call with flu-like symptoms to avoid these places until they are feeling better.
Eat Right : While sleep is important to help the body rest and regain energy to fight off infections, fueling the body with the right foods is equally important. Fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats should be encouraged, along with plenty of non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated.
Wash your Hands : An overwhelming majority of viruses can be spread through sneezing and coughing. One does not have to be caught in the cross fire to be infected though; the virus can live on surfaces such as door handles, shopping cart handles, desks, light switches and many other surfaces. Your patients’ number one defense against this type of exposure is to wash their hands frequently with warm soapy water. Tell patients to avoid touching their mouth, nose or eyes, as these orifices can allow the influenza or other viruses to enter the body.
Be Tested : There are hundreds of viruses that have similar symptoms as influenza. The only way to tell for sure, is to have a flu swab done. Your doctor can do this test quickly in the office.
Get Vaccinated : Studies show that getting vaccinated against the flu can reduce hospitalizations and lessen the severity of influenza, should one be infected. Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated annually against the influenza virus. While everyone should be vaccinated, it is extremely important for your elderly patients, the very young and those with compromised immune systems. These groups are at high risk for fatality if they become infected with the flu and the vaccination should be discussed. There are several doses of vaccine available but only the injectable flu shots are recommended this year. The live attenuated influenza vaccine, or the nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for use during this upcoming flu season because of concerns about its effectiveness. It is recommended that patients get their flu shot by the end of October if possible, receiving one vaccination will continue to provide protection throughout one flu season.
Treatment : Because influenza is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Treatment plans will be individualized based on each patient’s symptoms. Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be used for fever and body aches. Aspirin should be avoided in children 16 years and younger due to the risk of developing Reyes Syndrome. Patient’s with the flu should stay home and rest, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
While many people can manage their symptoms at home, the influenza virus is not to be taken lightly. Reports say that, despite the recommendations that everyone over the age of 6 months be immunized annually, approximately 36,000 people die annually from the flu. Being prepared with a few short conversations with your patients and following a standardized plan, such as the myTriage Checklist™, can help them have a safer and healthier flu season.
Click here to find out more about how your office can get TriageLogic’s myTriage Checklist™ up and running before flu season.
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