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CDC says take these 10 steps to prepare your medical office for flu

Nothing beats a top-10 list for disseminating information that readers would otherwise gloss over. Why even this blog has resorted to this decimalization practice on occasion [1].

Recently, the CDC added to the wealth of novel influenza H1N1 information [2] with “10 Steps You Can Take: Actions for Novel H1N1 Influenza Planning and Response for Medical Offices and Outpatient Facilities.” [3] Facilities covered by this CDC guidance include doctor offices, outpatient/ambulatory clinics, outpatient surgery centers, urgent care centers, physical therapy/rehabilitation offices or clinics, and offices that provide psychological, dental, pediatric, chiropractic and other clinical services.

The CDC acknowledges the key role that these types of facilities will play in meeting the increased demand for services and in ensuring “a sustainable community healthcare response,” during the likely recurrence of a novel H1N1 during the upcoming flu season.

In other words, compared to the outbreak last spring, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Here’s the list along with useful links to improve your readiness:

  1. Develop a business continuity plan. [4]A full blown outbreak will affect…just about…everything, so identify key functions and personnel for your practice to sustain your core business activities for several weeks.
  2. Inform employees about your plan for coping with additional surge during pandemic. Don’t let it get to the situation where employees think you are skimping on  health protection as it did with this California hospital [5].
  3. Plan to operate your facility if there is significant staff absenteeism. Studies say expect 20 to 40% of your employees not being able to come to work, so cross train staff.
  4. Protect your workplace by asking sick employees to stay home. Encourage staff to monitor for symptoms. [6]
  5. Plan for a surge of patients and increased demands for your services. One tactic is to develop telephone messages about self-care, when to seek care at your facility, or when to seek emergency care [7].
  6. Care for patients with novel H1N1 flu in your facility. [8] Plan to screen patients for signs and symptoms upon entry to the facility and initiate infection control measures.
  7. Take steps to protect the health of your workforce during an outbreak of H1N1. [9] Also, stockpile sufficient PPE for your staff [10].
  8. Provide immunization against seasonal flu at no cost to your staff. [11] Several flu strains will be circulating this fall. Seasonal flu vaccination won’t provide protection from H1N1, but it will help keep you staff healthy and reporting to work.
  9. Make sure you know about the pandemic planning and response activities of the hospitals, outpatient facilities and local public health in your community.
  10. Plan now so you will know where to turn to for reliable, up-to-date information from national [2]state [12], and local [13] health departments.

Look to the September issue of Medical Environment Update [14] for more ore details and advice on these 10 action steps for pandemic influenza H1N1 preparedness.