If you’re like most healthcare providers, you’re seeing more and more patients coming down with the flu. Because of the severity of this flu season and the number of widely publicized child deaths, it’s important for healthcare providers to help disseminate reliable information to patients.
4 things to share far and wide
By sharing information and health advice, you can help combat both the spread of the flu and patient anxiety stemming from news reports. Here’s the kind of information you can share with patients and the public on your website and other platforms:
Information about the flu in your area.
Where people can get vaccinated.
The warning signs of flu.
Flu prevention strategies.
Before we dip into the details, let’s put this year’s flu season in perspective.
Is this flu season really worse than others?
This year, the most prevalent type of flu circulating is the H3N2 virus, which tends to be more severe and cause more serious illness and complications than other types of viruses. Already 53 children have died because of it.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that there could be more than 710,000 hospitalizations by the end of this flu season.
This year has had the highest rate of flu hospitalizations since the CDC began tracking this data in 2010. This is also the first year flu is affecting every state in the continental U.S. at the same time, putting a strain on health resources throughout the country. This season is on track to surpass last year’s flu season, and lives literally hang in the balance.
With H3N2 already representing 89 percent of all diagnosed and sub-typed flu cases, helping your community understand the facts about flu prevention and treatment is critical.
What’s the best way to get the word out? Since the vast majority of people look online for information, the web is the obvious place. Sharing information about treatment and prevention strategies as widely as possible is critical for the health of your community. It can also serve as an opportunity to educate your community about your healthcare practice, establishing it as an authoritative source of health information.
1. Information about the flu in your area
Use these updates to keep your community informed. This can help people understand the spread of flu locally and take appropriate measures.
I also recommend that you share links to the information you publish on your social media feeds, including Facebook and Twitter, and encourage staff and patients alike to help spread this information out through their own social networks. In fact, you can make it easy for them by adding share buttons to your posts.
2. Where people can get vaccinated
While the flu vaccine this year is less effective against H3N2 viruses, in part because of how the vaccines are produced, vaccination can still help prevent spread of the other flu virus variants, and help build “herd immunity.”
With the overwhelming number of cases being seen by hospitals, any flu prevention can help. Letting people know where they can get free or low-cost vaccinations helps encourage them to take action to protect themselves. The CDC has a great tool to help locate vaccination sites in your area that you can share. By posting this information prominently on your website, sharing it through email newsletters and through social media, you can help encourage your entire community to take an active role in controlling spread of flu in your area.
3. The warning signs of flu
Because of the harsh winter weather in many parts of the country, people are spending more time inside, which can lead to the spread of both colds and flu. But what most people don’t immediately recognize is the difference between a cold and flu, or know that if flu is diagnosed and treated within 48 hours of onset, complications can be reduced by taking antiviral medication. The three most common antivirals are currently effective against this year’s flu strains, so rapid diagnosis and treatment is important.
Sharing information and checklists to help differentiate the flu from a cold, like the information provided on the Mayo Clinic’s website will help educate your patients and community. Hopefully this will lead to more rapid treatment of flu, and also reduce the spread in turn.
4. Flu prevention strategies
According to the CDC, the incubation period for the flu is between one and four days, and is infectious to other people for a day or so before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. That means it’s easy to spread the flu before a patient feels ill, and there’s a greater chance to others from just being out in public.
Share healthcare tips and checklists from the CDC and websites like Healthline.
You can share this information on your website, through social channels and through email and text alerts. I’ve also seen some providers create a quick downloadable PDF or Word document with flu prevention strategies and reminders they can give to patients they see in their practice. You can create a simple, attractive checklist with free tools like Canva.
Checklists that can be easily posted on a bulletin board or refrigerator help remind people daily of flu prevention tips. I recommend including information about your website and practice (including your phone number) at the bottom to help you remain top-of-mind with your patients while also helping them stay well.
Spread information this flu season
Trustworthy and actionable information shared as widely as possible is the key to preventing further spread of the flu — and can even help save lives. Using your website, social media channels and email to educate others will help alleviate the strain flu is placing on healthcare resources and providers in your community. It will also show your community you are a trusted reliable resource — and that’s a benefit everyone can appreciate.
Also published on Medium.