I know what you’re thinking – flu season already? You’re probably saying, come on, summer just ended and it’s still hot out. Trust me, I feel the same way. But according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccination protection to set in and flu outbreaks can happen as early as October.
Although the flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths every season, public health officials say they still don’t see a spike with flu vaccinations. The trends are disappointing surrounding not only the flu shot but vaccinations in general for those who really need it, like seniors.*
One in three seniors does not get the flu vaccine each year, although it’s recommended for everyone over 6-months-old.* What’s even more shocking is that the CDC estimates that over a 30 year period from 1977 to 2007, flu-associated deaths amongst Americans ranged from a low of 3,000 to a high of 49,000.* These deaths were primarily associated with older adults.
Although, the range of effectiveness of the flu vaccine from year to year makes it harder to influence someone to get it, getting the flu vaccine does ensure a milder case of illness when you do get the shot.* Despite this fact, public health officials say doctors need to make recommending these vaccines to patients a habit. Seems easy right? Maybe not. In a recent article published by Kaiser Health, they point out that even Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization at the CDC, understands why physicians don’t make vaccinations a priority. Many physicians cannot find the time to incorporate vaccination into their care routine.*
So what can be done? What are some simple things that you as a healthcare professional can do to encourage and educate your patients about the flu vaccine?
Educate your patients so they know what vaccines should be getting. Whether it’s by having a conversation about the vaccinations they should be getting or pointing them to resources they can use to educate themselves. Communicating the risks and options available is a great start.
Utilize your EHR
The information you call pull from your EHR is a great tool to identify who in your patient population is due for not only the flu vaccine but for vaccinations in general. This is a great proactive approach to reach out to your patients and let them know they are due for a vaccination.
Send Automated Reminders
Sending automated reminders to your patient population is a simple and easy way to communicate to your patient population that they are due for a vaccination or that you are hosting a flu-shot clinic this season.
Empower your Staff
Engage nurses and medical assistants in the process of administering vaccinations and immunizations.Implementing the workflow of having the staff see the patient prior to the doctor, allows them to administer the vaccination based on the patient’s chart without having to employ the physicians help.