COVID-19: Are You Prepared for the Second Wave?

On April 21, Robert Redfield, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), made headlines when he warned that a second wave of COVID-19, forecast by health experts to occur later this year, would be far more dangerous than the initial outbreak, since it would coincide with the onset of the flu season.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” he commented.  “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”

And there’s definitely merit to his concern.  COVID-19 has already claimed over 100,000 lives in the US and placed considerable stress on local health networks.  When we consider that, according to CDC estimates, seasonal influenza itself impacts roughly 45 million people across the US each year, resulting in nearly 500,000 hospitalizations and 35,000 deaths, having two respiratory illness outbreaks occur at the same time could be devastating, putting an overtaxed health care system under further strain and significantly challenge companies to maintain a workforce healthy enough to maintain essential operations.

So it’s no surprise then that this warning was met with renewed attention on the importance of getting the flu shot.  Yet, despite the risks clearly illustrated, there remains concerns that people will not heed the warning and get vaccinated for the flu.  In fact, CDC reports that only 45% of adults in the US received the flu vaccination last year, despite infections and hospitalizations being at their highest level over the last 5 years.

And while opinion polls appear to show that many individuals decline to get the shot due to a perception that it’s unnecessary or ineffective, many adults fail to get vaccinated more as a result of barriers to access, specifically because they lack health insurance or due to inconvenience.

Businesses willing to offer flu vaccinations free-of-charge to their employees, however, will be better equipped to withstand the “combined threat” of COVID-19 and influenza later this year, giving them better odds of ensuring a healthy workforce that is critical for business continuity.  Moreover, organizations that invest in vaccination infrastructure now will be much better equipped to administer COVID-19 vaccinations when they become available, with some pharmaceutical companies announcing a possibility of the first vaccine doses becoming available in September.

5 Critical Factors for Your Flu Vaccination Campaign Success

So what do employers need to know to execute an effective flu vaccination campaign?  We’ve outlined below the five most critical factors and describe how an investment in EHSQ software will enable organizations to execute these programs in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

1. Make scheduling appointments easy

The probability that your employees will participate in any free immunization campaign is largely dependent on the ease in getting into the clinic. Tools that enable workers to book their slot quickly and easily at a best available time will improve attendance and drive immunization rates up. Mobile-ready software solutions that allow employees to book appointments via an app directly from a mobile device definitely make scheduling easier. These apps can also send auto-reminders to the worker and their supervisor at scheduled intervals to ensure they don’t forget their appointment.

2. Manage your vaccine inventory

You need to ensure that you have enough vaccine on hand to meet demand.  And this means you need to be able to quickly and reliably build and adjust your inventory as vaccine is administered.  Doing this manually is incredibly time-consuming and prone to errors. When looking at software solutions, consider those that allow you to build vaccine inventories, and link those inventories to the charting record, so that when a dose is administered, the inventory count is automatically adjusted. 

3. Optimize the efficiency of your clinicians 

Optimizing your flu vaccination program’s value for cost is really about how many vaccinations you can administer per unit time. So anything we can do to lessen the nurse’s administrative burden for charting frees them up to see more patients. Using occupational health software solutions that streamline charting with built-in data tables and drop-downs not only improves efficiency but reduces the possibility for errors. And leveraging mobile apps that enable employees to complete pre-vaccination questionnaires in advance ensures that clinicians have the data they need to administer shots safely, while increasing clinic churn that keeps program costs down.

4. Improve care while protecting confidentiality

Clinics during flu campaigns can be hectic, with employees rotating through constantly. We don’t want a chart with private health data left out in plain view or a filing cabinet being left open inadvertently. Software solutions offer the ability to encrypt sensitive data and assign security roles to ensure the personal information is only accessible to those with a right to see it.

5. Provide a single source of truth to evaluate success

The real value in adopting software is the speed in which your collected data can be analyzed to provide the organization with meaningful insights to drive decision making and to identify program gaps that require action. Real-time dashboards and scheduled reports enable leaders to easily and quickly assess program performance, drive accountability, and identify trends or “hot spots” and initiate quick action to mitigate risk. Most importantly, the effort and time required to create these insights is dramatically reduced so you don’t need to spend time crunching numbers, and instead can focus on what to do about them!

Summing Up

While most organizational leaders are focused at the present time on bringing their people back to work, we cannot risk becoming too short-sighted in our approach to pandemic readiness.  Winter is coming! Now is the time to build the infrastructure you will need to ensure your employees can get the vaccines they need to protect their health, while ensuring you can also protect your bottom line, before the second wave breaks.

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