With kids back in school and the holidays coming – during which families travel and gather together, giving the flu and other viruses plenty of opportunities to spread throughout communities.
Are you wondering what to expect this cold and flu season? In this blog, we’ll discuss how to prepare for the onslaught of illnesses in children. We’ll also highlight how you as a pediatrician can tailor your services to effectively and efficiently meet your patients’ needs when sickness strikes.
What Can Pediatricians Expect This Cold and Flu Season?
When making flu season predictions, experts reference flu trends in the Southern Hemisphere. This is because the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter before us, so we can gain valuable insight into the upcoming flu season based on the number of cases reported in Australia. Unfortunately, Australia is having its worst flu season in nearly five years, with the highest number of cases being reported in children. Based on their numbers, the flu season in the United States is on track to start early.
Since 2021 when preventative measures for COVID first started relaxing, we’ve seen the emergence of a “twindemic” — when the number of flu and COVID cases were running rampant. This has caused an increased strain on the healthcare system. For this year, researchers are concerned a twindemic will happen again, stretching hospitals and resources too thin. Luckily, there is a phenomenon known as viral interference, which occurs when two viruses do not compete and will not peak at the same time. With any luck, this will be our winter experience and hospitalizations will be manageable.
The medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases has voiced concerns that preventing the flu, COVID, and RSV will be challenging due to the reduction in preventative measures like masking. Plus, anti-vaccine sentiment has been present since the original COVID vaccine debuted.
Not only are there recommendations for the flu vaccine, but there is an updated COVID vaccine and now two new RSV vaccines. Prior to the anti-vaccine movement, a little more than half of the population received their annual flu shot. Experts are worried that this number will be even lower this coming season, placing vulnerable populations at risk for serious complications from these viruses. However, research continues to suggest that the best prevention from the flu is the vaccine.
How Can Your Pediatric Practice Prepare for Cold and Flu Season?
There are several ways that your pediatric office can get ahead of the upcoming cold and flu season. Strategies include offering virtual care, streamlining your platforms, and ensuring your patients know how to access your services. Let’s explore each of these actions.
Telehealth is a cost-efficient and time-effective way to manage an influx of patient calls while also limiting the spread of cold and flu viruses. Your office can utilize telemedicine visits for screening windows to assess if a child needs an in-person visit or if a virtual visit is appropriate. In addition, you can use telehealth as part of your day-to-day process by establishing telehealth hours to handle follow-up appointments and other visits that can occur remotely.
After-Hours Nurse Triage
As we enter into the season of cold and flu viruses, call volumes are bound to increase. Anytime After Hours accommodates an uptick in patient calls by making registered nurses available for triaging during evenings, weekends, and holidays. Thanks to Barton-Schmitt protocols, nurses give consistent medical advice to your young patients and their worried parents.
Our registered nurses have at least five years of emergency room or pediatric triage experience. They know appropriate telephone triage protocols and are able to convert telephone triage into video triage, when necessary, to better assess your patients. You and your pediatric team can enjoy time off, knowing that your patients are receiving the evaluation they need and appropriate medical advice when your office is closed.
Parent Educational Campaigns
If you have a telehealth platform, use it and promote it on social media, in the office, at the front desk, and on your answering machine or voicemail. Anytime Pediatrics offers marketing materials that your practice can use to assist with educating your patients on your pediatric telehealth services. If you do not offer telehealth services, now is the time to incorporate them into your practice! Anytime Pediatrics also offers web support and landing page templates to help you with establishing an online presence.
Marketing and Website Placement
Your pediatric practice can leverage its online presence to provide education on both virtual services as well as virus prevention and treatment tips. Linking medical information and articles about common winter viruses on your site can be helpful to the families you serve.
Plus, you can regularly post information about your telehealth program, including:
- If and when you offer virtual walk-in visits
- How to sign up for and schedule telemedicine visits
- Which symptoms are appropriate for telemedicine appointments
Finally, email marketing is an effective tool to regularly send newsletters that pertain to the seasons. These messages can offer reminders about available services and health-related tips and tricks to implement this fall and winter. Additionally, you can provide appointment reminders — and reminders on how to access a virtual appointment — via text message.
Take the Next Step with Anytime Pediatrics
Anytime Pediatrics can help your office set up a telemedicine platform that best fits your team’s needs and your patients’ concerns! Our platforms will prepare you for the “back-to-virus-season” demand! For more information, contact us today to request a consultation!