November 27, 2018 | Net Health

14 min read

Preparing for the flu: How employers can organize and support a healthy flu season

The flu season is here already and we need to be prepared for it.

According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season (roughly beginning October 2017, peaking in February and ending around May 2018) was a high-severity season, which saw high emergency room and outpatient visits for flu-like illness. From October 2017 to April 2018, 30,453 lab- confirmed flu-related hospitalizations were reported, and sadly, as of October 27th, 2018, the last flu season caused approximately 185 pediatric deaths due to the flu, with 80% of those children not receiving a flu shot. The last flu season really took a toll on all of us and unfortunately since there is no outright cure, we must do all we can to prevent another catastrophe.

For the 2018-2019 flu season, it’s of utmost importance that we do everything we can to prevent catching the flu and to stay healthy. At Net Health and like many offices, we work in close proximity, constantly interacting and working face-to-face with one another.  These circumstances can increase the chances of catching the flu and having several miserable days and nights, chock-full of coughing, congestion, and general blahness.  In order to prepare and try to prevent such events, employers should be engaging with their employees and providing as much guidance as possible to help them stay healthy during flu seasons. Grabbing the attention of employees, especially regarding wellness, can be tricky so there must be a balance of fun and informative.

Here are just a few ways employers can organize and support a successful flu season:

Creative Marketing– Hang posters/fliers strategically, preferably in locations where employees conjugate the most or hand out stickers like the “I voted” stickers from the recent midterm elections.  These ads should promote getting a flu shot, reminders to wash hands/use hand sanitizer, covering your mouth when coughing, etc. Also, when mass emailing employees about the flu season, try to make it as funny (memes and gifs are always great options) and punny as possible!

Onsite Flu Shot Clinic- Convenience is key. Getting to the doctor’s or urgent care can be inconvenient and time-consuming. The utilization of onsite flu shot clinics makes the process much more convenient for the employees and can lead to a bigger turnout.

Educate Employees- Education can be fun!  Take the important information and put a fun, colorful twist on it.  Creating FAQs (frequently asked questions) with bulleted, bite-sized flu facts and stats are eye-catching and do not take much to digest.  Also, an educational message or meeting from the trusted leaders of your company promoting and encouraging wellness can help inspire the troops.

Employee Incentives– Offering a reward for getting a flu shot can be very enticing.  The incentives can range from a pizza day to a PTO day. Be creative!  

See what ideas Cottage Health have used previously in the video below


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View Video Transcript

Welcome everyone. My name is John Michael Bonasso. I’m one of the Agility Client Sales Executives. And we have a few presenters today who are going to be covering some topics. Our first is Eddie Stahl. Eddie has over 21 years of healthcare experience and is now our Clinical Solutions Consultant.

So when I think about flu season, I think, “Oh, the woes of flu season.” So, during my career in healthcare overseeing the operation of 12 OCC Med urgent care clinics, we looked at each year as a new flu adventure and asked ourselves what we can do better than the year prior. We nailed down to processes that, once we established these two, we repeated each year.

The first thing, a designated waiting area for flu vaccinations. This freed up our main lobby for our sick patients and decreased the illusion that we were really busy which caused patients to turn around and walk back out of the door and leave the clinic completely. Patients were typically in and out of the clinic in 10 minutes or less with this process. It was very successful for us.

Now, another success story that we had was dispersing flu vouchers. So prior to going on site, we would sell numbered vouchers to employers so that they could disperse these to their employees, family members, really whomever they chose. Most of the employees that we dispersed the vouchers to attended the flu clinic, but there were some patients that never really redeemed their vouchers. However, we still received our total fee since we sold them prior to the onsite visit.

During my time with Net Health, we’ve made a conscious effort to add new features to the Agility software to make your flu season easier. So, we were tasked with creating a more efficient way to get your paper consent forms into Agility. And we did accomplish that in the release of 10.20.

So using the Quick Load feature, you can now upload your consent forms into the software at the same time you’re entering the flu vaccine medical activity. And have you ever thought it would be great to be able to capture electronic signatures on interactive forms on the fly? You can now do that as well. Using any device that has Agility installed with 10.20. And you may not realize it, but there are six different ways to enter flu vaccine information into Agility.

Here’s a quick list for you, which our Agility Senior Sales Product Specialist, Maureen Bowen is going to be showing you later in the webinar.

I now like to introduce an Agility client, Angeli Mancuso. She is the manager of Employee Health and Safety at Cottage Health.

So, Cottage House is located in Santa Barbara, California. So the central coast of California. We’re a nonprofit regional hospital system.

And we consist of three hospitals and an outpatient lab. We have about 3,800 employees. We’ve got 800 physicians affiliated with the hospitals and we have about 800 volunteers plus various contractors in any state. Interestingly enough, for our flu season, we actually have two policies when it comes to flu vaccination. Our physicians, about five years ago, actually took a leadership stance when it came to flu vaccination and they voted into their bylaws, a mandatory flu vaccination policy for themselves. With our employees, we have a vaccinate or mask policy. And, so any employee who chooses to decline the vaccination after our compliance deadline is mandated to wear a mask at all times while at work except while eating or drinking. And that policy is both for patient care and non-patient care. So we don’t differentiate between being a certain distance away from a patient when you have to wear the mask. Basically anyone who’s declining has to wear that mask.

Our vaccinations start the day after Labor Day and compliance is due at noon on Halloween. And for the past three years, we’ve been able to achieve 100% compliance with our policy. So the vaccinate or mask with a written declination and 96% vaccination rate throughout the system. Over and above all the statistics, I also wanted to share with you guys a little bit about the feeling around how we do flu vaccine season. Three years ago, when the employee side decided to go with this mandatory or vaccinate or masking policy, we knew we were going to have to combat some negative feelings around that policy. And so we started implementing two different things that really have made us look forward too flu season, and I never thought as an Employee Health nurse, I would be able to say that. That this is something we always look forward to.

First, we changed our model of hosting clinics with 10 nurses in the room and lines of people coming through and getting vaccinated. We changed our model to more of a public health model of we go where the need is. And so our nurses round to departments and to staff meetings and to anywhere that our employees are working. We round to them and give them their vaccine right on the spot.

And we also started doing themes. So our Employee Health staff have great brainstorming themes every year. These are the last two years’ themes. We were the Flubusters the year that the female Ghostbuster cast movie came out. That’s shot on the right. And then last year we were the Guardians of Immunity. We kind of had a superhero theme.

So could you tell us a little bit more about how you’re preparing for this flu season?

Yeah. So basically our process has become, every year we do a new, like how could we make that better? We always do a postmortem on our flu season and say, “Okay, we made these rates. We had these feelings. How do we get even better the next year?” And so something that we implemented just last year and we’re going to continue this year is that we released our Employee Health nurses. We have two of them, by the way. I don’t think I mentioned that for the other question. We have two full-time Employee Health nurses who do the bulk of this rounding and the bulk of these vaccinations. We release them from all of their other Employee Health nurse duties. So there isn’t any annual TB screening during September and October. We limit the number of the followup for the new hires than any other vaccination campaign that we might be doing. We limit those.

Like I said, we do the public health model. We have the themes. Actually on Monday, our new theme is being released and we are going to be detectives on the hunt for a flu clue. So that’s really exciting to be doing. We calendar well ahead of time. So we can publish our calendar as to what staff meetings we are going to be at, what employee entrances we’re going to be at. And what times. We make sure that we cover shift change, weekend shifts. We partner with other stakeholders like our volunteer services department and our medical staffing. If you think back on this slide that Eddie just showed Maureen’s going to go into. We’ve done four of the ways of flu vaccines with Agility. We’re looking forward to number five this year, if we can get through the IT hiccups. And, we’re looking forward to number six next year, once we implement the employee self-serve portal.

Great. And thanks for sharing the ways that you all are doing it today. I think it’s always interesting to hear from clients the different ways that they are tracking their flus. So four of the six, that’s typically… People do it more than one way.

And Angeli, last question I would have for you, in addition to what you’ve already shared with us, do you have any best tips or best practices that you would recommend for those listening on the call for this season?

Yeah. I think reminding our managers and our employees on a very regular basis that this program is going on and letting them know where their departments are landing, as far as their vaccination rates or their compliance rates with the policy. And to that end, the reporting capability in Agility is absolutely invaluable. I would not be able to manage paper forms and telling a staff of 62 people, you’ve got 40 people vaccinated. We’ve still got the remainder and you have these opportunities to come to us. So I run probably reports three different times every week, just for internal information. Weekly, I’m updating management and letting them know where each manager stands for their staff. We do weekly or biweekly updates to all employees reminding them that this is the time they need to get their flu vaccination.

And again, I think the biggest thing that we did two years ago was this going where the need is and being available. And there’s really not an excuse for people to say, “I can’t get to you.” We are going to them.

And thanks again for sharing. I think it’s always valuable hear how clients are using agility day to day and to have you share your best practices is great. So I appreciate that.

And now I want to pass it to Maureen Bowen. Maureen is our Agility Senior Sales Product Specialist.

Well, thank you, John Michael and everybody who’s spoken so far. I really do think that there are six different ways and I’m actually even going to give a bonus way to get that information in the system from however your vaccinating and getting that information, so it’s in the system. In a way that meets the needs of your practice.

Number one, here is a Caraflow Integration. Some of our clients still have Caraflow devices that they use for badge scanning and completing information. We have always had a complimentary integration with that particular product. So when it’s docked, it will actually move that information over and update the vaccination records. One thing I do want to point out here that I didn’t say at the very beginning is that most of the things that we’re going through here, our clients need to be using forms and scanning. So some of our clients, even if you’re not on the 10.20 release would need to make sure that you’re using forms and scanning. And then we’ll talk about some of the things with the 10.20 release as well that Eddie pointed out.

So number two on here is Quick Load. And so Quick Load to me is an option when you have little or no technology available to you. So think of, I’ve got lots of people in line getting to get vaccinations, or I’m away from a computer and they’re filling out pieces of paper for their consent. I’m giving the shots and I’m sitting back down to enter the information. But just as a general reference point, this could be used for TB. This could be used for fit testing. This could be used for anything else that you’re doing in map. Now with a 10.20 enhancement, being able to scan the form.

The one that most people don’t know about is Quick Shots. Quick Shots actually allows for employees who are administering vaccinations with little or no access to Agility, to be able to get a spreadsheet to complete and be able to give that information back to someone to upload.

Next up is four, five and six. So they all have to do a visit. So this could be, if I was in a clinic. If I had technology and I was doing them in the cafeteria mode or the conference room mode or max mode that I’m doing them in, but the reason that there’s four, five and six is what am I doing with the form?

So number four is that they brought me a piece of paper. I can still scan that piece of paper. And it’s attached as an electronic form. Number five uses our pre-fill interactive forms. So you might already have forms that you’ve designed and our clients actually can build their own interactive forms so that they can have your custom logos and your format with a touch screen and or a laptop or a desktop computer using Microsoft or anything that can run Agility. I can actually go in here and get an employee signature without using a signature pad. So it was never a piece of paper.

And now number six has to do with our portal. So with the patient/employee portal, depending on if you’re an OCC Med or Employee Health, and you can actually put one of your prefilled interactive forms on the portal for that to actually be accessed and completed by the employee. So four, five and six are within a visit. Scan an interactive form with signature capture in that form that was completed on the portal. John Michael, I’m going to hand it back to you.

Thanks, Maureen. That’s a great overview.

And again, if you have any questions, feel free to email Reba or myself. Thanks again for joining. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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