How Should Your Practice Prepare for this 2020- 2021 Flu Season?

Flu-Shot - CopyIf there is anything all of us have in common, it would be that 2020 has not gone as we planned.  How could any of us have predicted on New Year’s Day that medical offices would close, and we would all stay home?  Nowadays, forward planning is ever more challenging in this unpredictable environment we live in.  We must be agile to survive, and it takes an open mind toward new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to be able to continue in business.  

None of us know how severe this coming flu season will be, as it converges with the COVID-19 outbreak, but what predictions and changes could medical offices make to try and better prepare?.....

 

Testing

 

We can be sure that people will be far more conscious about getting flu tested if they are feeling symptoms.  The FDA has now issued a new emergency authorization to the CDC for a combination influenza and COVID-19 diagnostic test. With just one swab this combination test will get answers for patients quicker. 

In past years, symptomatic flu patients may have just rested a couple of days and managed to get over the flu on their own at home, without being tested.  Now, people are going to want to be sure whatever symptoms they are feeling is not Covid19 which will lead to inadvertently increased testing for the flu.

The questions for those that administer these flu tests are now:  Do you have the equipment that will be needed, and/or enough space to facilitate the potentially increased demands?

 

Flu Shot Vaccine and Covid-19:

 

Although influenza vaccinations reduce the risk of catching the seasonal flu, they do not have any impact on the corona-virus.  However, the CDC has strongly recommended that people get vaccinated so they can try and reduce the strain on the healthcare system, while isolating what is Covid-19 and what is the regular flu. 

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted during May of 2020 found that about 60 percent of adults in America are planning to get the flu shot this year, whereas normally this number would be 40 percent.

The question you may need to start thinking about is how is your practice, clinic or organization going to administer all these increased demands?

 

Social Distancing and the Flu:

 

On a more positive note, it was proven at the end of last flu season that it was shortened by the social distancing measures that were put in place during the Spring.  Being that the majority of Americans are wearing masks in public, standing apart from each other, being extra conscious when it comes to disinfecting everything, traveling and moving around less, not attending large social gatherings and washing hands more frequently, these measures may also kill the spreading of the flu this coming season. 

 

Here are a few Ideas that might help you master these new trends:

 

 

1) Set up walk-in/drive up vaccine days.

Patients like the convenience of being able to drive up and get a flu shot without an appointment.  Like these drive up Covid19 Testing Centers, why not also do the same thing at your practice?  You can designate days and blocks of time that any of your patients can drive up or walk in and get their flu shot without an appointment.  This would be not only convenient for your patients, and efficient for your practice, but also safer and more in compliance with social distancing and reducing the spread of infection.  You may want to consider setting up a makeshift tent outdoors to facilitate this. 

2)  Pre-book your vaccine orders.  

The CDC recommends medical professionals to start vaccinating in September/October for the 2020-2021 flu season.  You can pre-book your vaccine orders for delivery in late August. That way, you can have your vaccine supply ready sooner than local pharmacies and other providers, avoiding any supply and demand issues that might arise.

3)  Streamline Communications:  

Send flu reminders to your patients. You can set an online Scheduling system so your patients can schedule themselves after receiving an auto email from your practice.   Not only will those alerts remind you to ask, they will remind your patients that flu shots are available at your practice.

4)  Increased Vaccine Storage and Handling:  

This increase in vaccine demands will also put a strain on the handling and storage of them.  Is your practice’s vaccine refrigerator adequate and large enough for an increased level of inventory?  Increasing the amount of vaccine inventory, you are storing, will create a greater risk if it were to be lost due to a power outage.  Does your vaccine refrigerator have a battery backup system or supported with a generator?  Is your staff adequately trained for handling these temperature sensitive and costly medications?  I am sure these are some of the questions you may be asking yourself prior to this coming flu season.

Our suggestion would be to work with your team.  You may need to come up with some unconventional ideas to handle these new challenges that 2020 may throw at us. 

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