Healthcare providers will face an even greater challenge in managing the annual flu season this fall. During the 2019-2020 flu season, more than 14,000 people died, and 410,000 were hospitalized according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Considering the strong possibility of overlap between influenza and COVID-19 cases, providers need to begin their planning early this year. It is still unknown whether COVID-19 cases will surge in the fall similar to the flu. However, many forecast models predict that this will be the case. Another unknown is the likelihood of patients becoming coinfected with the flu and coronavirus. With so many new variables at play, healthcare systems need to begin their fall planning now to prevent their resources from becoming overwhelmed.
It has never been more critical to encourage patients to receive vaccinations for the upcoming flu season. Vaccinating patient populations against the flu can help prevent an outbreak in communities, boost immunity, and prevent a strain on healthcare resources. Patient notifications have been successful in previous years to drive up immunizations during flu season. With the possibility of a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the fall, providers can help reduce flu cases by beginning automated patient outreach in August 2020.
Flu Vaccine Communication Recommendations:
- Emphasize the importance of receiving the flu vaccine
- Maximize connection rates by leveraging multiple communication channels using patient preferences
- Send follow-up messages to patients that do not make an appointment
- Use bi-directional text messages to ask patients whether they have received the vaccine yet
- Use real-time, secure chat communications to direct patients on how to enter your facility in a safe manner
Providers must consider new factors into their flu vaccination plans. To support new patient safety measures during the current healthcare crisis, providers are using technology-enabled communications such as patient chat. Curbside check-in reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19 so that patients safely wait in their cars until it is time to enter the facility. When their provider is ready, the patient receives a secure patient chat notification. Other recently implemented safety procedures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining a 6-foot distance from other patients can be effectively communicated in automated notifications. Providers can further encourage vaccinations next flu season by ensuring that their patients will be in a safe environment.
When adapting care models for patients with the flu or COVID-19, providers will benefit from integrating technology-enabled communications into their plans. Distinguishing between the two illnesses will require new testing and care procedures. Hospitals and urgent care centers will need to have plans in place to keep these patients separated to reduce the risk of coinfection. Currently, health systems are using multiple communication technologies to support COVID-19 testing procedures. Providers are quickly communicating test results through right-party verification in notifications. To monitor for worsening symptoms, bi-directional texts or patient surveys allow for automation. The received patient responses aid providers in prioritizing outreach to those patients at-risk of readmittance. In response to the current healthcare crisis, providers have successfully adapted existing communication technologies to support many new applications.
Patients with the flu do not always require emergency-level care, and for those patients, telehealth appointments are a viable option. And, to keep patients on-track with their recovery, notifications can be used to ensure medication and at-home care plan adherence.
Healthcare organizations will be facing a difficult fall season, but they can ease the strain on limited emergency resources and deliver optimal care to patients through early planning. The COVID-19 pandemic will cause unprecedented challenges to healthcare organizations in how they manage the next flu season. However, healthcare executives can begin preparations now by designing effective strategies that incorporate communications technology.
Intrado’s comprehensive portfolio of solutions are ideal for implementing outbound campaigns and new procedural strategies. Click here to schedule a consultation with one of our Intrado representatives to learn more about our scalable and secure patient communication solutions, including bi-directional texts, voice calls, emails and real-time chatbots to begin your flu season planning now.