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Providing Convenient Care During Flu Season
The CDC reported that more people between the ages of 18 and 64 were hospitalized for flu-like symptoms last flu season than in previous years. While Flu season typically peaks between December and February, it can begin as early as October and continue as late as May. According to the CDC, the number of adults and children who received flu vaccinations, increased during the 2013-2014 season from the previous year.
With this in mind, it is important that healthcare providers act now and take additional steps to provide their patients with flu-related information and care, so patients don’t turn to retail or urgent care clinics for vaccinations. Furthermore, spending more time indoors during the holiday season increases the possibility of catching and spreading illnesses.
Staying involved with your patients will encourage them to come to your office when health issues arise. While this is important to ensure both continuity of care for the patient, it also increases revenue for your practice. “A low level appointment might be $60. Missing 10 of those a day over two and a half months is a lot of money,” says Gray Tuttle, principal in healthcare management for Rehmann in Lansing, Michigan (as cited in Marbury, 2013).
Taking Care of Your Patients
Suggestions for providing quality care include:
- Find out which payers fully cover flu shots and which do not. Provide this information to your patient so they know what to expect.
- Educate your patients about their need for the flu shot. Don’t just ask if they received one, inform them of their risk and let them know you can provide the shot.
- Set up special hours specifically for flu vaccinations, and allow for walk-ins so that patients can get their shot through you without making an appointment.
- Offer same-day appointments by leaving time in the schedule for morning and afternoon patients with flu symptoms. Monday mornings are often busy with patients who were sick over the weekend, so keep the schedule light in order to allow room for sick patients.
- The CDC recommends sectioning off a part your waiting area specifically for patients with respiratory infections. If that’s not possible, having a station specifically for cold and flu patients will allow them to move through the waiting room quickly, reducing exposure to other patients.
Taking Care of You and Your Staff
Healthcare employees are at a higher risk of exposure to the flu and therefore need to take additional precautions to protect themselves from infection, while also reducing the transmission of it to other patients, staff, and family members.
- Have protocols in place to get employees and their families vaccinated.
- Review infection-control standard precautions with all staff, even those who do not have direct patient contact. Promote hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
- Encourage sick employees to stay at home. Have a plan in place to cover their absence, possibly through a temp service, or utilizing a telephone triage service to help direct patients to appropriate care.
- Ensure you have proper personal protective equipment available to healthcare staff, and make sure it is used and discarded properly.
- Be extra diligent with office cleaning procedures, especially between patients.
- The immune system functions best when a person eats healthy, exercises, and gets plenty of rest. Make sure you and your employees take care of your own health so that you can be there to take care of your patients.
The Bottom Line
The flu season can be a very busy time for many practices, but with proper procedures in place, providers can effectively help their patients. A nurse triage line can help with increased call volume, as well as educate patients. Your office staff can help patients by making adjustments to accommodate flu services. In addition, while you and members of your staff may not want the vaccine, it’s important that you get it to protect your health and the health of those around you.
“Hello everyone. Welcome to TriageLogic. My name is Dr. Ravi Raheja and I am the medical director. In this brief video I just want to talk about what this article is going to cover in more detail.”
“How do you stay productive and keep your patients healthy during the flu season? Here are some main points.”
- “Make sure you have room for walk-in flu shots. You want to make it as convenient and as accessible for patients as possible.”
- “Use same-day visits for sick appointments. You may have to change your template so you can allow patients to come in the same day to be seen. If they do not have the opportunity to come see their doctor, they will end up in an urgent care or in the ER. So you want to make yourself as available as possible.”
- “You want to allow for sick staff. You may have to have temporary nurses or more hours from nurse practitioners to help fill in when the staff is sick. This will make sure that you don’t run short of staff during the busiest time of the year.”
- “You want to review the cleaning procedures. You want to make sure that all of your staff are very knowledgeable in how to clean the rooms in between patients to prevent the spread of germs.”
“So if you follow these four basic points and read the rest of the article, you can stay healthy and happy during the flu season.”
Influenca Implementation Guide – American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www2.aap.org/immunization/illnesses/flu/implementationguidance_flu.pdf
What to read next: http://triagelogic.com/coldflu-percent-decjan2013/