This week is World Immunization Week, a global health campaign spearheaded by the World Health Organization and observed across the world. This year, the theme is #VaccinesWorkForAll, a reminder that vaccines, and the people who develop and deliver them, are essential to protecting the health of everyone.
The current COVID-19 outbreak highlights the importance of vaccines. At this very moment, scientists are hard at work researching the novel coronavirus and developing a vaccine. But this is no easy task, given how difficult it is to formulate, thoroughly test, and gain approval for a new vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be ready for another 12-18 months, but it’s important to develop a game plan for when it does become available. For one, the vaccine must be accessible to all patients, and cost should not be a barrier that prevents patients from getting the care they need. Advocating for policies that make the vaccine widely available is something that we can all do to protect public health.
Even in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, providers agree that child vaccines must be given on schedule, such as MMR shots for young children. You can use our broadcast messaging solution to share this type of information with your patients who require on-time immunizations, as your patients are likely confused about the type of care they should be prioritizing right now.
While the COVID-19 outbreak has massively impacted the normal process of immunization delivery, there are ways to adapt your clinic’s workflows to prepare for an eventual return to normalcy. Here are a few strategies for prompting patients to schedule immunization appointments:
1. Proactive patient outreach
Effective and efficient patient outreach strategies are key to getting patients to the care they need quickly — read more about the value and importance of outreach here. With an advanced patient engagement platform, providers can leverage customized reminder cadences that fit your clinic’s workflows and needs.
For example, multilingual communications can reach specific, targeted patient populations in their language of choice; similarly, text-first messaging ensures that all patients, even those without a landline in their home, receive important information about their health. Plus, sophisticated messaging platforms can make it possible to outreach only to patients who haven’t received, for example, their flu vaccination in the past year.
The second key ingredient of an effective outreach system is scheduling flexibility for patients. When patients need to take time out of their busy workdays to call their provider and put an immunization appointment on the books, scheduling becomes a tedious chore that easily slips through the cracks. To combat patient procrastination, scheduling systems should be accessible around the clock and shouldn’t require phone calls. Allowing patients to schedule the appointment on their own time, on their device of choice, and with their provider of choice, motivates more patients to make their immunization appointments. Plus, it significantly frees up staff time spent on the phone scheduling appointments — a win-win situation. See how a sophisticated scheduling wizard works here.
2. Health literacy campaigns
Providers are in widespread agreement: vaccinations are absolutely essential. Everyone whose immune system can handle a vaccine should be getting one. But not all patients agree. In fact, a recent survey found that 45% of American adults have doubts about vaccine safety.
That’s why we at Luma Health are committed to working with healthcare providers to help them spread accurate information to their patients and ultimately convince patients of the importance of being vaccinated. Patients are increasingly saying that they want to play a more active role in their own healthcare, meaning that providers need to engage them in a reciprocal conversation that fully addresses their concerns. A couple great ways to do so, especially during a time when patients and providers should be minimizing face-to-face interaction, are through secure chat or SMS broadcast messages.
Broadcast messages allow providers to mass-text specific patient populations (e.g., you could message everyone who was overdue for a routine vaccination) with information pertinent to their health, such as health education content that discusses why vaccinations are crucial. In addition, to carry out HIPAA-compliant conversations where protected health information is discussed, providers can leverage Secure Chat to answer any and all patient questions regarding vaccines. To facilitate these important conversations and to maintain patient-provider trust, we are offering 90 free days of our broadcast messaging solution to providers who sign up by April 30 (that’s just 2 days from now!).
Disseminating factual, easy-to-understand information that reaches every patient is the best way to increase health literacy and prove that vaccinations are crucial to protecting public health. See more ways to boost health literacy in our Health Literacy Month blog — while these strategies seem simple, they can have a huge impact on patients and sway vaccination skeptics.
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the healthcare system and made it more difficult for patients to get vaccinations in a timely manner. Right now, the vast majority of clinics have cancelled nonessential in-person visits for the foreseeable future, including non-urgent immunizations such as shingles or pneumococcal vaccinations.
In light of these developments, we’d like to remind providers that once healthcare practices can return to “normal,” there may be a significant backlog of patients who need to get their vaccines. We recommend anticipating that demand now and working to respond to it appropriately by putting plans in place to streamline practice operations. For example, clinics can prepare for reopening by implementing automated appointment reminders and self-scheduling systems. These changes can increase efficiency by reducing the amount of staff time spent on manual tasks; in turn, administrators are free to focus on other important aspects of the job, including processing patients who come into the clinics.
Getting every patient in for their immunization is essential and we’re here to help. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have — fill out the form below to get in touch.
And until we return to “normal,” we hope you are staying safe and healthy during this chaotic time.