Flu season strikes practices: 3 tips for preparing staff

Flu season has hit early this year, and with a vengeance, triggering health emergencies in Boston and New York State, as reported by The Boston Globe and The New York Times, respectively. To keep your practice running as smoothly as possible throughout the heightened flu activity, keep the following tips in mind.

1. Sick policy
To protect patients and staff, do not allow employees to come to or stay at work with symptoms of illness. "Sick providers and employees are powerless to help patients," wrote Mary Pat Whaley in a recent post for Manage My Practice. You should already have a clearly defined plan for covering shortages in place, but if you don't, work with your team to come up with a strategy that works for your practice.

2. Urge vaccinations
The American College of Physicians on Monday released a statement, calling on all healthcare providers to be immunized against influenza and other highly transmissible infectious diseases, with exceptions for religious or medical reasons. While mandating flu shots may not go over well with staff, there are ways you can encourage more employees to get the shot voluntarily, such as offering vaccination onsite at no cost to employees.

3. Communicate
Keep patients abreast of where they can and can't get vaccinated as shortages emerge. Use your practice's website, social media outlets, automated phone messages, your patient portal and employee scripts to keep patients up to date on expanded flu clinic hours, alternate places to go should you run out of the vaccine and under what circumstances to visit the office or emergency room. Remind staff to keep a calm demeanor and provide reassurance when appropriate.

To learn more:
- see the statement from the American College of Physicians
- read the post from Manage My Practice
- see the article from The Boston Globe
- see the post from The New York Times

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