Flu season always presents its own set of struggles. This year, however, with COVID concerns, flu shots are now more important than ever. While some patients see the inoculation as “optional” in the past, it can make all the difference this upcoming season. During last year’s flu season, 45% of US patients received a flu vaccine. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were more than 3.5 million influenza infections during the 2018–2019 flu season. They also estimate around 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths related to the flu.
The Danger of Flu Season During COVID Pandemic
Flu can be minor for some patients, but for others, it can be deadly. This is without the persistent concern of COVID infections. With a vaccine some time away, getting the flu vaccine can be the difference between an office visit and a hospitalization. By engaging your patients, you can not only ensure that they get the care they need, but you can provide preventative care to keep them healthy and safe this flu season.
Keeping Patients Engaged During Flu Season
Patients are more aware about their health and safety than ever considering recent events. A co-infection of COVID and flu can be deadly. While steps to avoid a COVID infection will also be effective during the flu season, it is important for patient’s health to take all available preventative steps to ensure health and safety during the fall. Engaging your patients is an important part of alleviating some of their stress (which can, in turn, weaken their immune systems) and taking proactive steps towards staying healthy.
By taking steps such as emailing patients to let them know that you have flu shots available, it puts flu shots, as well as your practice, in front of mind. Engaging patients by email, Facebook, and even blog posts can convince more of your patients of the importance of getting a flu shot this year and every year.
It is also important for your practice to develop a plan on how to handle these patients coming in for a flu vaccine. If your office leveraged a preparedness plan for treating well patients as well as COVID-risk patients, this can be modified for flu vaccinations. For example, screening patients via phone or telehealth to determine their needs can keep patients and staff safe.
Wellness Days and Flu Vaccination Clinics are Widely Adopted
Many practices created wellness days as well as COVID-specific treatment days and this can be easily leveraged for flu vaccines. Scheduling hours for flu vaccinations can help patients feel safe enough to come in. Using your patient engagement tools, especially email, patient portal messaging or Facebook, your practice can share that flu clinic schedule – as well as how to make an appointment for a flu shot. Not only is this easier for the patient, but your practice can plan ahead to ensure a safe environment and a quick visit.
Patient engagement is at the forefront of any successful provider’s best practices. When a patient is engaged in their care, they lead healthier life. By planning ahead and leveraging patient engagement tools, your practice can ensure more of your patients are protected during this flu season.