The pandemic taught us to wash our hands more thoroughly, practice social distancing and wear masks—all with the expectation of reducing the spread of COVID 19. One less-expected outcome of these precautions was a sharp reduction in cases of the seasonal flu. During the pandemic, the CDC reported it had logged 1,316 positive flu cases between September 2020 and the end of January 2021. During that same period the previous year, it had recorded nearly 130,000 cases. With the world largely opened up and mask mandates lifted, patient outreach is key to ensure that the public is protected from the seasonal flu.
The World Health Organization reports that seasonal flu deaths typically range from 300,000 to 650,000 worldwide each year. But now that masks have come off, travel has increased, and offices and schools have resumed in-person activities, US experts are bracing for a sharp increase in flu cases.
It's Time to Begin Patient Outreach to Encourage Flu Vaccines
While COVID-19 vaccines have been the main focal point for people in the past two years, the CDC reports that in 2021 the percentage of Americans receiving a flu shot decreased across all demographics, including pregnant women and those at high risk. Some consider that this may be due to vaccine fatigue.
There is a common misperception that if one received the COVID 19 vaccine, they don’t need to get the flu shot. This is incorrect. While both are contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses and require different vaccines.
On the question of when to get the vaccine, the CDC recommends:
“You should not wait for flu activity to be rising or high in your community to get a flu vaccine. September and October are generally and ideally, everyone should be vaccinated before the end of October. While flu activity may be low in your community now, it could begin increasing at any time. Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against flu.”
Who Are Most At Risk for Seasonal Flu?
According to CDC data, risk groups haven’t changed. Those most at risk for serious complications include people 65 and older and/or who are experiencing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, or heart and kidney disease, as well as infants and children under two years of age.
5 Key Considerations for Successful Flu Shot Clinic Patient Outreach
During flu season health systems can create exceptional patient outreach campaigns and experiences with the right combination of communication and scheduling services. Here are five ways:
SMS Text Messages for Patient Outreach
Connect with patients through their own devices. During the 2019-2020 flu season, 4 out of 10 patients who booked flu shot appointments online through Stericycle Online Scheduling did so on their mobile devices. Share links to your flu shot clinic scheduling page, location of clinics, and information on the importance of vaccinations. Send to large audiences quickly and efficiently with our Message Broadcast solution.
Online Scheduling and Check-In for Flu Shot Appointments
Provide a heightened experience with online scheduling and capture patients before they visit non-traditional walk-in clinics. Allow patients to schedule, confirm, and reschedule appointments online. Encourage your patients to subscribe through marketing communications.
Improve Patient Outreach with Flu Shot Reminders
Utilize appointment reminders so patients don't forget upcoming flu shot appointments. Share other important information via email, text, and recorded voice reminders, such as visit instructions, clinic operational hours, and weather closures. Implementing a natural language processing system can answer patients' simple questions, saving staff time and resources.
Outbound Phone Calls to High-Risk Patients
Remind high-risk patients why it's important to receive the flu shot. Answer any of their questions or concerns and schedule their appointments over the phone. Create targeted HIPAA-compliant direct marketing campaigns based on patient demographics, medical history, physicians, service line, location, and more.
Multi-Lingual Flu Shot Hotlines For Patients and Staff
Streamline inbound calls from patients with questions about the flu shot and how to book appointments. Ensure your health system can answer questions in the patient's preferred language to drive access, action, and adherence.
Patient Outreach Doesn’t Stop With Flu Season
Stericycle is proud to help clients deliver exceptional and modern patient experiences to the modern healthcare patient with our unique combination of patient outreach, online scheduling, and live voice services.
Our Health & Wellness Campaigns help you conduct personalized patient outreach for flu shot promotion, education, scheduling, and reminders, without the extensive time commitment and extra resources from your staff. Health & Wellness Campaigns can help simplify complex patient engagement and simultaneously increase revenue and patient satisfaction scores.