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    How to prepare your practice for flu season

    Preparation and patient outreach during flu season will enable your practice to better compete in a crowded marketplace

    While its impossible to accurately predict the exact severity of each year’s cold and influenza season, there are a variety of steps primary care practices can take to prepare staff and patients for its arrival. The result? A more efficient and proactive practice that can better respond to the needs of its patients.

    READ: Same-day care, capacity key to managing flu season

    The first item on most primary care practices’ to-do list regarding flu season is to plan how they will get their patients vaccinated, according to Owen Dahl, MBA, FACHE, a medical practice management consultant in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Where practices often fall short, he says, is in making proactive decisions about how they might handle increased patient volume, supply needs, modifications to their schedule, and communicating all of these updates to their patients. “I think they should be talking about what happened last year and the year before,” Dahl says. “What were our problems? What could we have done differently in terms of responding to demand?”

    Operation vaccination

    Nonetheless, practices do need to consider their plans regarding flu immunizations early.

    According to the latest fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shipments for the 2014-15 vaccine  began in mid-summer and will continue throughout September and October. For this season, manufacturers have estimated they will provide between 153 and 158 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market, according to the CDC.

    READ: Immunizations - How to make this vital service financially viable

    As of mid-July, Candy Le’Oso, practice administrator at Drs. Borders & Associates, PSC, in Lexington, Kentucky, says her office already ordered its vaccines, but has more work to do before patients begin rolling up their sleeves. “Once we’ve ordered our vaccine, we always check to see whether there have been any CPT [current procedural terminology] code changes, and what the reimbursement is going to be so we can make sure we’ve got the charges correct and our revenue is appropriate there,” she says.

    Next: Breaking down the costs of influenza vaccines

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