While Employee Health departments in hospitals and healthcare systems deserve credit for making sure their staff members have been vaccinated for both influenza and COVID-19, new challenges lie ahead. Employee Health departments will be grappling with how to manage both COVID-19 and the flu this year.
According to the CDC, 55% of adults were vaccinated for influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season.1 As of June 2021, the CDC estimates that about 50% of people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.2 But despite the public perception that the pandemic is over, hospitals still must be prepared for influenza and COVID outbreaks.
Here are some five ways Employee Health departments can continue to track the flu and COVID-19 this season:
1. Consider Vaccine Mandates or Incentives
Employee Health departments are important voices in discussions about vaccine policies. Making headlines across the country, some hospital systems have declared that the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory, or health workers may risk losing employment. Major academic hospitals, such as Penn Health, for example, have decided to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory, but this is still not a common decision.3
Employee Health departments may also consider providing vaccine incentives rather than mandatory vaccination. Regardless of which direction hospitals choose to follow, it will be important to focus on the needs of medical staff and serve as an advocate for health and wellness.
2. Keep Up with Flu, COVID-19 and Vaccination Reporting Guidelines
While it may be challenging to keep up with state and federal reporting requirements, it is absolutely paramount to do so. To facilitate matters for Employee Health departments, regular updates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide set guidelines for different health facilities to follow.4
It’s worth noting that COVID-19 surveillance data is provided on a daily basis by HHS on their website. As for influenza reporting, it is currently optional, but guidance recommendations may change as the U.S. enters flu season.
3. Utilize EHRs and Other Technologies That Enable Departments to Share Data
Interoperability is a goal at the federal, state, and hospital level. What is important is to find a system that is able to integrate seamlessly with other departments and provide reliable features, such as patient portals and scheduling that help EH keep track of any COVID outbreaks or flu illnesses. As a result, turning to these features can increase health worker and patient satisfaction.
4. Stay in Touch with Health Workers About Any Flu/COVID-19 Concerns
Health workers are on the front line of any infectious disease outbreak, but they may not be asked about what they see on the floors. Be available to answer questions and explain changes as they occur, including guidelines that may be set in place as the 2021 flu season approaches. Be available to talk to staff who have not been immunized as well and identify any concerns or barriers they may be experiencing, such as allergies.
5. Plan Ahead for the Flu Season and a Potential Wave of New COVID-19 Vaccines
An unanswered question remains: Will COVID-19 immunization be annual like the influenza vaccine? Despite our current uncertainty, public health agencies, including the CDC, are releasing guidance frequently. It helps for Employee Health departments to have contingency plans and check on government regulations and guidelines often. Staying one step ahead of the game will ensure that health workers are fully protected and prepared for any flu and COVID-19 guidelines that may lie ahead.
Learn more about how you can protect your medical staff from the upcoming flu season and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with Net Health® Employee Health. Our software solution offers full compliance tracking, including COVID-19, flu and other required immunizations, and a mobile immunization app in one specialized and paperless documentation solution.
Navigating The Flu Season and COVID Era with Net Health’s Employee Health and OccMed
Navigating The COVID Era
1“Weekly National Flu Vaccination Dashboard,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 5, 2021.
2“COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
3“Penn Health System Takes the Lead in Requiring Employees to Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 19, 2021.
4“COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 27, 2021.