A pandemic creates a massive challenge for healthcare professionals in the United States but another challenger is approaching in the Fall, flu season. With over seven million COVID-19 cases in the United States alone, the upcoming flu season only serves to burden an already taxed health care system.
With positive cases still on the rise throughout the country, the Fall flu season becomes more uncertain. Especially with the overlap in the high-risk groups (and symptoms) between COVID-19 and influenza, having a plan is essential for tackling the fall.
There is still hope in the form of the flu vaccine. Increasing patient outreach in the early fall could decrease the number of hospitalizations for the 2020-2021 flu season. With up to 740,000 hospitalizations related to the flu for the 2019-2020 season, communication of the vaccine will be essential.
Automating patient outreach regarding the flu vaccine should integrate the following:
• Outreach via SMS, email, recordings via phone calls/voicemails
• Appointment reminders and follow-ups via secure chat
• Live chat/video call for patients who need more information about the vaccine
Timing the reminders and administration of the vaccine would be crucial for preventing the spread of another respiratory illness. Vaccinating patients has broad implications for the greater populace in preventing outbreaks and decreasing the stress on local health systems for the duration of the flu season.
Having these communication paths open for your patients will ensure patient and staff safety. Being able to communicate remotely and in real-time will ensure that patients have all the information they need before they enter your doors. Curbside Check-In will provide the first point of contact for most patients who show up for their appointments. Being able to conduct intakes, and communicate safety procedures is essential for a safe, socially distant environment.
Working with both illnesses later in the year will challenge providers in new and unforeseen ways. Creating a dedicated plan of communication will ensure that patients who are experiencing symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, will be separated from the rest of the population. Take advantage of secure communication and being able to manage testing, patient transfers, and patient monitoring. Having a secure chat system in place in acute care settings will elevate the ability to adapt to your daily challenges for the upcoming flu season.
For post-acute care, following up with patients can be done remotely and automatically using chatbots. Being able to support patients by monitoring their symptoms in their own homes can help prioritize the patients who are most at risk for readmission.
Having this line of communication would be effective for patients who are struck by the flu to remain safely at home, and generally do not require emergency care. Telehealth would be able to reach them via live chats or live video to ensure that they are following their care plan to recovery.
This will be a difficult end to an already painful year but having a plan in place will ensure patients and staff are able to go home safely. The ongoing pandemic has already created unprecedented challenges for healthcare professionals and the upcoming flu season will add another level of complexity. Planning now on how to communicate, manage staff and patients will mean the difference for when both illnesses are active among the general population.
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