It’s early 2020, and the new decade has the country gripped with anxiety about a virus with potentially deadly consequences for people with immature or weak immune systems. If you’re a parent, you may be thinking about coronavirus (2019nCoV); if you’re a pediatrician, you already know that the flu B strain for 2019-2020 holds greater risks for most of your patients. Here’s how PCC can help you guide a conversation from coronavirus to flu, and keep parents and patients healthy and happy.
The 2019nCoV vs Flu Conversation
The 2019nCoV, colloquially known as simply “coronavirus,” or the Wuhan coronavirus, was announced as an outbreak in Wuhan, mainland China, on December 31st, 2019. As of February 11th, 2020, the official name for the virus is COVID-19. The New York Times detailed the effects of the virus on global travel and trade and how countries are responding. At the time of this post’s writing, 13 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the 2019nCoV.
Meanwhile, since flu season began in the fall of 2019, there have been over 8,500 hospitalizations for flu, and the Center for Disease Control reports that hospitalizations are higher this year in children and young adults under 25.
CDC’s report of flu outbreak in U.S. states and territories for the week of Jan 26 to Feb 1.
The worldwide concerns over COVID-19 stem from the rapidity of the illness and its spread. Both the United Kingdom and the U.S. have declared national health emergencies in response to the virus, which has now resulted in more worldwide deaths than the SARS virus global outbreak in 2003.
The international media coverage of the 2019nCoV virus are naturally concerning to parents and pediatricians whose goal is to keep kids safe. Here’s how to reassure, reconnect, and educate parents and keep your community safe and healthy, with some help from PCC.
Addressing Parents’ Concerns
While it’s important to share the knowledge that in fact, the flu outbreak is likely more cause for concern, remember to hear parents out on their concerns. Parents who feel listened to are more likely to hear any advice you give on preventing the flu. PCC’s Patient Portal can help you connect with parents concerned about bringing their kids to the office.
Listen, acknowledge, and ask questions. You may wish to disclose data from your EHR on how many cases of flu your practice is seeing. If parents are stuck for sources or don’t know who to believe, the CDC and World Health Organization are the best sources for coronavirus and flu information for pediatricians and for parents.
Remind parents that for now, the CDC and WHO states that those at risk for the 2019nCoV are those traveling from mainland China and with 13 diagnosed cases in the U.S., and extremely cautionary measures in place worldwide, their risk is low.
The following safety measures can help parents and communities prevent the spread of illness and stay safe.
Virus Safety Measures
The flu is also a virus, so many of the concerns, precautions, and ideas about preventing and treating it apply for flu and coronavirus. These guidelines by the WHO can help keep patients healthy and prevent the spread of viruses:
- Wash hands frequently
- Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Masks are a common sight in news coverage of the COVID-19 virus. There are no studies to conclude that they are effective to prevent illness outside medical settings. Shortages of masks could restrict supply to healthcare settings.
- Maintain 3 feet of distance between people who may be sick
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
- If you have been in contact with an infected person or community, notify your PCP if you show symptoms of flu symptoms: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or body aches
Want help reminding staff, parents, and patients to practice these safety measures? Learn how to set alerts in PCC EHR.
Why Is Awareness of the 2019-20 Flu Virus Important?
Sharing awareness and safety measures against the 2019-20 flu season is vital to help keep young patients and those with compromised or immature immune systems from becoming ill.
According to the CDC, the H1N1 and B/Victoria strains are most predominant this season. This is important for pediatricians and parents to know, as B strains have not been prevalent since 1993 and therefore, children and adults younger than 25 years are less likely to have antibodies to battle the virus.
It’s also important to educate families that, despite concerns over coronavirus, the outbreak of flu this season is already well underway, and precautions should continue until the season ends (usually by May).
Managing Flu in Your Practice with PCC EHR
Your EHR can help track flu rates in your practice by providing population data for all of your patients. PCC clients can learn more about how Immunization Forecasting can help you track patients who still need a flu shot on PCC Learn.
Team collaboration is necessary to keep your staff and patients safe. During meetings and daily huddles, remind your team to keep up precautionary practices and collectively educate patients and parents on ways they can help prevent the spread of flu. Encourage staff who fall ill themselves to stay home and be tested and treated for flu before reporting to work. Set ticklers and alerts in PCC EHR as reminders or to alert staff when a patient has the flu.
Are face masks effective? Images from China show that many people have taken to wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus. Studies are inconclusive to show that masks worn outside healthcare settings are effective.
PCC helps you see where your practice’s immunization rates compare to guidelines. How does your flu shot rate track this year? PCC’s Immunization Forecast tool can also help you see patients who have a flu vaccine coming up.
Flu season may be beginning to wane, but does your practice have enough flu vaccines to treat the last of the season’s patients? PCC EHR tracks vaccine lot quantities as you add lots and administer vaccines. You can manage immunization lots, track and adjust lot amounts manually, and use reports to manage your vaccine inventory.
Manage Your Practice’s Immunization Payments
Do you know how immunizations help run your practice? If not, that’s information you should know, and you can find it on PCC’s Practice Vitals Dashboard. You can break down immunizations by type to know exactly how important flu shots are for your practice’s business management.
If you’re not sure how well your practice should be performing on flu vaccines, the Dashboard lets you see data from the average PCC client, so you know exactly where you should be.
Remember Your Community
There are other ways your practice can help your community this flu season to educate, spread awareness, and remind parents that your practice is the place to go to be safe and well cared for.
- Stay alert for outbreaks in schools, daycares, and other public areas near your community. This CDC map can direct you to your state’s most current data.
- Give a presentation or talk at a school, business, or public event
- Distribute hand sanitizer, hand washing guidelines, or tissues to patients
- Volunteer to assist other local pediatricians when outbreaks are tough
- Share information and reassurance on social media, including video
- Offer a class or event at your practice for parents to learn more about coronavirus and flu
- Offer support to schools and daycares -- can they call you for flu advice or to refer parents to your office?
Want more advice on managing your practice to ensure that during a stressful sick season, yours is the practice parents turn to? PCC’s services include consultation with our Pediatric Solutions team, who can guide you to make the wisest, most viable business decisions for your practice’s goals. Ask us about your 2020 goals.
A focus on preventative care can reassure parents, keep kids safe, and help your practice flourish too. Remember, it’s not too late for influenza vaccines, especially for at-risk patients -- while any time past January is late, the CDC still recommends it as a precaution.
If you’d like to learn more about why preventative care should be the primary focus of your practice for continued success, check out our webinar below: