Summer is coming to an end, and the arrival of Fall is nearly here. Typically, people think of cool breezes and colorful leaves when they think of Fall, but it also marks the arrival of the 2021-2022 flu season. Last year, experts worried that we would face a "twindemic" as both COVID-19 and Influenza were present. However, in 2020 the United States had a record low amount of flu cases due to the social distancing protocols that were in place.
But unlike last year, there are fewer social distancing measures in place for COVID-19. This relaxed environment will allow the flu to spread more easily and even potentially sooner than expected. Even more, antibodies that protect against the flu wane over time. Since there was little flu virus activity last year, adult immunity will now depend on exposure to viruses two or more seasons earlier. This means that this year more than ever, it's important to have a strong patient engagement strategy to boost flu vaccination.
"This year, we are heading into the flu season with more relaxed restrictions, and the situation will allow for an increased chance of respiratory illness transmissions. We saw a similar uptick of 'summer colds' caused by other viruses this summer as restrictions relaxed, and the fear is a similar uptick of flu cases this fall/winter season."
— Dr. TingTing Wong of New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Brooklyn
With this potential twindemic, health systems have some challenges to overcome when it comes to flu season. Here are some questions to think about as we approach flu season:
- How will you deliver flu shots without overwhelming your current staff?
- With the current COVID-19 surge, what measures will need to be taken to ensure you are keeping patients and staff safe? And how will you communicate those safety protocols?
- How will you engage patients to get the flu shot and ensure vaccine hesitancy from COVID-19 doesn't carry into flu season?
- What is your strategy to prevent patients from leveraging walk-in clinics for flu shots?
Here are six patient engagement strategies that can help you educate, promote, schedule, streamline, and protect patients and staff during this upcoming flu season.
Patient Engagement Strategies to Boost Flu Shots
Offer Online Scheduling for Flu Shots
If you want patients to seek your health system instead of a walk-in clinic for flu shots, you have to provide them with the experience they want and expect. Utilize an online scheduling solution for patients to conveniently schedule, confirm, and reschedule their flu shot appointments at any time and from anywhere.
Send Broadcast Messages to Patients and Staff
Keep patients and staff updated and share important information about their flu shot by utilizing a message broadcast solution. This could include location, a link and phone number to schedule, safety protocols, and more. Additionally, educate them on the importance of receiving the flu vaccine and reassure them that your facility is a safe place to visit.
Engage High-Risk Patients with Outbound Calls
With COVID-19 and the flu circulating, it's crucial for those that are high-risk to get their flu shot, especially if they didn't get one last year. Set up an outbound call campaign to reach out to your high-risk patients and remind them why getting the flu shot is important. Even more, share how they can safely get a vaccine with your health system.
Engage Patients and Staff Flu Shot Hotlines
Patients and staff might have questions about the flu vaccine, especially due to the current vaccine hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccine. Set up a flu shot hotline for patients and staff to call for information and questions about their flu shot. Additionally, create a frequently asked questions page on your website about the flu shot for patients and staff to easily access.
Send Flu Vaccine Appointment Reminders
Don't forget to remind patients and staff of their upcoming flu shot appointment. This can be done by utilizing email, text, and recorded voice appointment reminders. Be sure to include any important visit information in your reminders, so patients and staff know what to expect.
Create Virtual Waiting Rooms for Flu Shots
With cases of COVID-19 currently surging in some areas of the country, be sure to offer your patients the ability to wait at home or in their car until their designated appointment time. A virtual waiting room will help to ease any fear or anxiety that patients may have about entering your facility.
It's Time to Create a Patient Engagement Strategy for Flu Season
As we approach flu season and a potential twindemic, your health system must leverage patient engagement strategies like the ones above to keep patients and staff healthy and protected. To learn more about how we can help support your flu shot initiatives, download our Health & Wellness Campaigns datasheet.