Getting prepared for flu season is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, flu season is the time of year urgent care clinics bank on. As the industry grows up, clinics are getting better at filling in the gaps with other profitable service offerings like occupational medicine and sports physicals/concussion baselines, but the length and severity of flu season has a huge impact on the success of urgent cares.
While we can’t predict just how severe flu season will be, we do know it will come with all its aches, sniffles, and fatigue.
A successful flu season starts with planning and preparation—and flu shots.
While holding flu vaccination clinics may not generate a lot of instant revenue, the goodwill they provide coupled with the opportunity to impress new patients goes a long way long-term. But like all good things, there is a risk. Your clinic must run smoothly, efficiently, and leave a lasting good impression that will keep you top-of-mind for prospective patients.
No matter where you hold your flu clinic, these tips will help you plan.
1. Spread the word.
No matter how severe flu season turns out to be, many people will get sick. Some will require a hospital stay, and some will even lose their life. Flu places a substantial burden on the health of people in the United States each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 60.8 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.
- Be sure to reach out to parents of young children, pregnant women, and seniors about possible flu-related complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections.
- Share the risks with patients and promote getting the vaccine early—it takes two weeks for the vaccine to start doing its job. The CDC recommends that people get their flu shots by the end of October. Children who need two doses should begin the process earlier.
- Provide information—brochures, flu facts, flu prevention, and survival tips.
- Market your flu clinic with posters, signs, speaking opportunities, direct mail, text messaging, and even your on-hold message.
- Use your website, social media, email lists, and your Google business listing to promote your flu clinic online.
- Don’t forget to list the other services you offer while promoting your flu clinic.
- Pass out “I got my flu shot. Did you?” stickers as a walking testimonial to your clinic.
2. Educate your staff.
It’s easy to assume that everyone on your staff knows the facts about the flu. But make sure they have the right information so they’re able to share that information not only with patients, but with their families and friends. Host a lunch and learn to help them learn, provide an informational brochure in their paycheck, or have a flu quiz contest where the employee with the most correct answers receives a gift card.
Aside from information about the virus itself, let them know what to expect at the clinic during flu season—higher visit volume, longer hours, and the importance of playing as a team.
3. Plan your strategy.
A good operational strategy can help make your flu vaccine clinic run smoothly, but it takes planning.
- Think about what worked in previous years, and what didn’t. Implement changes during planning.
- Determine the number of clinics you will offer both onsite and offsite. Partner with area businesses and organizations if it makes sense in your market. If staff will be out of the office giving flu vaccinations, be sure to have adequate staffing for the clinic so your regular patient care doesn’t miss a beat.
- Review the rules for doing onsite immunizations in your state. Some states require a licensed practitioner such as an RN or LPN to administer flu shots.
- Plan and schedule any marketing efforts. Consider promoting flu shots on slower days, less busy times of day, or offering discounts to draw in patients during off hours. Put dates on a dedicated calendar.
- Offer staff flu immunizations.
- Before your onsite clinic, consider developing a second appointment schedule just for flu immunizations with a dedicated practitioner.
- Determine where in the clinic shots will be administered, and set up a flu shot station.
- Three to four days prior to your onsite clinic, review your vaccine order to ensure you aren’t caught short. Check to be sure you have all needed supplies on hand.
- The day before the clinic, send email or text reminders to patients who have signed up. Suggest they sign up a friend.
- If available, use technology to check patients in for vaccinations.
- Have an efficient system in place when patients begin to show up for their vaccine.
- Smile and provide excellent service.
4. Think marathon, not sprint.
Offering flu vaccinations is just the beginning of the unpredictable flu season.
- Be sure to ask patients throughout the entire season if they’ve been immunized, and have the vaccine available.
- Remind patients that it can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection. Until that time, they are still vulnerable to the virus. Also, flu immunizations will not protect them against every strain of the virus—only the most prevalent.
- Winter health risks reach beyond the flu. Be sure you remind patients that you’re there for other seasonal ailments like strep, sinusitis, and cold-weather injuries like broken bones, strains, and sprains.
- Give patients something to remember you by when they leave the flu clinic—and be sure it includes your clinic name, logo, and phone number. Consider helpful promotional items like hand sanitizer or pocket-size tissue packs that keep your clinic top-of-mind.
- Be sure to promote staying well, even to those who elect not to get a flu shot for whatever reason. Pass out reminders to patients of all ages to “cover that cough” and “drown that germ” (handwashing)—two effective ways to help reduce the viral load during flu season.
During flu season the door is open to reconnect with current patients you haven’t seen for a while, and to introduce yourself and your services to new patients. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
To learn more about what you can do to keep business booming when flu season is mild, read some great advice from urgent care consultant, Patrice Pash.