How Physicians Can Prepare for Flu Season
A bad flu season can wreak havoc in an otherwise orderly clinic. While you can't control how bad it may get this flu season, you can take a few steps to prepare for it. Flu season starts early, so consider trying some of these tips to help reduce any disruption this year's flu season may bring:
- Prevention is the Best Medicine Preparing for flu season starts with prevention. Promote patient vaccinations in both the waiting and exam rooms through signs and word of mouth in the clinic. Ensure that nurses and front staff are offering eligible patients the opportunity to receive a flu shot while performing intakes. To increase compliance, you should make flu shots easy to receive by starting a walk-in flu shot clinic. The easier it is to receive a flu shot; the more likely patients are to get it.
- Set Up for Flu Triage As you prepare for flu season, educate all nursing and front office staff about flu recognition and how to best triage these patients. Establish standard operating procedures in the clinic for handling any suspected flu patients or issues that may arise from their treatment. This will ensure that you are prepared to take action as soon as flu season starts.
- Make Designated Flu Patient Areas Throughout the Clinic Once flu season starts, it is critical to decrease exposure within your clinic. Establishing designated areas in both the front and back clinic for patients exhibiting flu symptoms can help to contain the spread of germs. Suspected flu patients who call in for appointments should be instructed to proceed to these designated areas upon arrival. Be sure to reinforce with your front staff that masks should be given to suspected flu patients immediately upon entering the clinic and made available to all in the waiting room. To further reduce potential flu exposure, consider also establishing a designated "flu exam room" in the back clinic. This exam room can help to decrease the likelihood that your healthy patients will be exposed to the virus while in the clinic.
- Create Some Schedule Flexibility The start of flu season can cause surges in patient census, so prep ahead for any potential rushes. Create extra walk-in slots for patients or expand clinical coverage hours (i.e. late afternoon hours or a Saturday morning clinic) to help manage any patient scheduling issues.
- Ensure Extra Coverage is in Place Flu seasons often tax a clinics staffing needs. To relieve the added stresses of the season try preparing for flu season by adding an extra float nurse to cover vaccinations or any unscheduled walk ins that may come in.
- Create Informative Flyers Creating pre-printed informational flyers to hand out in the clinic can decrease the amount of time spent counseling patients after the start of flu season. Flyers outlining symptomatic treatment guidance and follow up information can provide assurance while also alleviating many follow up questions.
- Don't Forget about Self Care You are no good to your patients if you are out sick. Get rest, sleep, exercise and eat healthy to support your own health during the flu season.
Preparing for flu season can feel like a daunting task, but the potential savings far outweigh the up-front investment. As a physician, you are well aware of the consequences of being unprepared at the start of flu season.
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