Healthcare News & Insights

‘I heard the flu has a 90% death rate!’ Easing patient panic

Health care organizations are walking a fine line between dampening media-induced panic and making sure patients understand the real risks of the H1N1 flu.

It’s not an easy job — and it’s made all the harder since no one can predict just how bad or how widespread the H1N1 outbreak will be. But all the attention in the media is a double-edged sword: It makes people more aware of the issue — while making parents, school officials and everyone else think twice about every sniffle or sneeze.

Rather than deal with the seemingly inevitable avalanche of questions once flu season takes hold, taking proactive steps now to educate patients about what to expect can ease their fears — and reduce the burden on workers later if H1N1 does reach epidemic proportions.

Consider putting together a one-sheet FAQ to distribute to patients/clients now. (Your local and state health agencies may have resources you can use.) Some basic info that should be included is:

  • which populations are most at risk, and why
  • common symptoms and how to determine when to seek medical attention
  • vaccine info — including safety, effectiveness, who should get what type, and when/where patients/clients can get it. (One key point patients may not understand is that H1N1 is a different vaccine than their usual seasonal flu shot.)
  • a list of links to health and medical authorities (national or local) that can provide more information or resources.

You may want to include additional info relevant to your practice’s or hospital’s client base.

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  1. So has all of the testing been completed on the H1N1 shot yet? Initial reports show that it had a
    very high incident rate for causing neurological damage. If testing has been completed, what are
    the results? What were the numbers and percentages of neurological damage to people?