How Hospitals Can Help Prevent the Flu in 3 Simple Steps
“Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday, dear flu. Happy Birthday to you!”
The next best way to help prevent the flu is to get immunized every year during peak influenza season.
For hospital employees, a third step can help prevent flu from spreading in their communities: leverage the hospital’s EHR system to help ensure patients have every opportunity to receive a flu vaccine before leaving the hospital, regardless of the reason for the visit, as well as to anticipate and manage the influx of patients to emergency rooms during flu season.
Flu Outbreaks Strain Hospital Emergency Departments
Nearly 80,000 people died from the flu during 2017-2018, the worst season on record in decades according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 960,000 people were hospitalized throughout the United States – more than the number of staffed hospital beds throughout the country
When emergency departments are inundated with a sudden wave of patients, several complications can arise, including:
- Patient volume spikes
- Increased wait times
- Increased length of stay
- Emergency Department backlog
- Stretched hospital resources
If emergency departments become overcrowded and hospital resources are maxed out, patient care and satisfaction can suffer. Having an emergency department information system and an enterprise EHR to help maximize efficiency and throughput are critical during high volume periods.
EHRs Facilitate Flu Vaccination and Tracking
Despite flu vaccination being one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu, less than 1 in 5 adults were immunized during last year’s flu season. In fact, there was a 6 percent drop in flu vaccination coverage among adults from the previous year, which may have been a contributing factor in the season’s severity.
Hospitals have a very simple tool that can serve as a secret weapon to increasing vaccination coverage in their communities: an automatic alert from the EHR.
A decision support rule in the EHR should be turned on during peak flu season to prompt healthcare providers to ask patients about their flu immunization status before discharge. Between October and March, for example, when nurses log in to the EHR to chart or give a medication, an alert may be presented to ask patients about their vaccine status and spark a discussion about the need for immunization.
The EHR also can communicate with state registries to pull information about immunizations no matter where patients received their vaccines, including their general practitioner, the local pharmacy, or a walk-in clinic- reducing redundancy and improving efficiency for providers as well.
Flu outbreaks are difficult to predict and can spread through communities with alarming swiftness, making it difficult for hospitals to effectively prepare for spikes in patient volume. EHRs facilitate flu diagnosis reporting to state registries, which provides syndromic surveillance information about how flu incidents are spreading during a given season. Providers can use this information as they attempt to predict and prepare for an influx of patients during an outbreak.
MEDHOST EDIS Improves Workflow to Support Better Quality of Care
Efficient emergency department EHRs allow for safe, quality care during times of high patient volume, like during an outbreak of the flu, because they improve access to information and can reduce redundancy.
MEDHOST emergency department information system (EDIS) is a very effective tool to help move patients through the emergency department, which means doctors and nurses can see more patients without sacrificing quality of care. In fact, EDIS can provide several critical benefits during a crisis:
- Decrease length of stay
- Improve documentation
- Accommodate abnormal patient volume
- Control wait times
The application also allows EDs to add locations and beds in the system during times when there are more patients than beds in the ED. If beds are set up in the hallways during a disaster, for example, EDIS can add these locations so that patients are effectively tracked no matter where they are.
MEDHOST also provides EHR tools to aid hospital administrators a in the ER department to alleviate bottlenecks and better support patients throughout the hospital.