Students are back to school, but with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on much remains uncertain about how the academic year will actually unfold. That makes receiving preventive care the most important back-to-school to-do for students this fall.
Engaging with the parents of your school-age patients is more important than ever. According to a recent survey, 56 percent of parents say it’s not safe to send children back to school in their communities for in-person learning. With this level of discomfort, it’s essential you make patients feel safe and comfortable coming into the office when necessary, and let them know telehealth appointments are an option.
Here are three patient outreach campaigns community health centers and FQHCs can implement now to help keep students, families, and school staff, safe and healthy this school year:
1. Primary Care Appointments:
COVID-19 has affected patients with such varying degrees of severity that it’s been difficult for clear patterns of infection to be established.
Additionally, community health patients are from lower income households, which may be multigenerational or have adults who are essential workers, further increasing the risk for exposure to the virus. Combined with the fact that there is a severe lack of consistency around how schools across the nation are reopening, it is imperative for students to take preventive care seriously this year and schedule their annual physical exams.
Be sure to set up recall campaigns for primary care appointments so that students can start this school year with a clean bill of health. This can also be an opportune time for you to review proper hygiene, exercise, and nutrition habits with parents and students so that even when they leave your office, they can continue to practice healthy preventive care routines to keep risk for contracting COVID-19 as low as possible.
While phone calls and mailers may have been common channels for recalls in the past, we recommend automating these messages via text for efficiency and including a direct link for patients to call in or self-schedule online for ease and convenience.
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2. Vaccination Appointments:
Many students have likely skipped immunizations due to shelter-in-place ordinances, leaving them vulnerable to other serious infectious diseases, especially if they are attending seated classes. Additionally, it is still unclear what the effects of COVID-19 will be on this year’s flu season, making flu shots more important than ever.
Be sure to outreach to the parents of your pediatric patients to ensure they have all the necessary vaccines and encourage them to get flu shots for their children. Many of our clinics efficiently close this gap in care through the utilization of our Broadcast Messaging feature to mass-message reminders to those who need to schedule these essential healthcare services.
Although it is crucial to get patients in for their shots, there may be increased concern this year about the safety of being back in the doctor’s office. To address this, one of our community health centers, Zufall Health Center, located in New Jersey, has begun administering immunizations outdoors. This strategy enables many patients to be served at once, while giving them a large area to remain distanced from others as they wait to be seen.
If outdoor care isn’t an option for your facility, you can ensure the safety of your patients and staff inside the office by implementing contactless check-in processes to help maintain low-touch, socially distant protocols.
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3. Mental Health Appointments:
The effects of the pandemic have not been limited to physical health. Students have not had the chance to play and socialize with their friends during the summer vacation. Meanwhile, many parents from lower income families have had to put their health on the line serving as essential workers across various industries.
From the isolation of social distancing to the anxiety of possibly getting sick with COVID-19, mental health issues are hitting many patients hard during this time. Getting patients scheduled for mental wellness check-ups may be beneficial for everyone to start the school year off with a mind fresh for learning.
Using a telehealth solution to deliver these types of appointments virtually can help open up access to mental health care during the pandemic. To drive virtual appointment attendance, we recommend using a platform that doesn’t require any additional apps or logins to portals so that the barriers to access remain low. This enables you to include a direct link to the session in your text message reminders, which creates an easy and seamless one-click-to-join experience for both your patients and providers.
Reopening schools during a time of so much uncertainty can be stressful, but empowering members of your community to take control of their preventative health can be a simple step to ensure that students have a safe environment in which to learn during the school year.
Are there any engagement strategies you’re employing to make sure students are healthy at school this year? We’d love to hear from you and chat about how we can support you in those efforts!