Corporate leaders have the opportunity to reinvent their approach to influenza and other airborne diseases, harnessing recent innovations in diagnostics and related technology.
Employees and their families deserve a better approach to influenza. Sick leave reform is necessary as only 40 percent of the bottom 10 percent of wage earners have access to paid sick leave. However, expanding sick leave is not enough. Corporate leaders have the opportunity to reinvent their approach to influenza and other airborne diseases, harnessing recent innovations in diagnostics and related technology.
We are in the midst of a tripledemic, experiencing a rapid increase in cases of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 at the same time. The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flu season statistics reported through the week of November 26th are eye-opening:
- In total, CDC estimates there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses and 78,000 hospitalizations already this flu season.
- Nearly 20,000 patients were admitted to hospitals with influenza in the most recent week reported.
- 7.5 percent of visits to a healthcare provider during the week are for a respiratory illness.
- 9.7 percent of deaths during the week can be attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19.
- Two more pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the total to 14 so far this season.
What more can organizations do to support their population, including employees and their families? At Primary.Health, we believe it’s time to shift from the pandemic “firefighting” mentality to a long-term preventative health and wellness approach that prevents illness from occurring in the first place. There are new technology innovations to strategically reduce illness, curb spread, and protect productivity. These are three examples of a coordinated and technology-enabled program that we can help implement in your organization.
Raise vaccination rates
Not coincidentally, this week happens to be National Influenza Vaccination Week. According to the CDC, an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and reduce the severity of symptoms of people who get vaccinated, but still get sick with flu. Historically, flu vaccination rates have been a disappointingly low 36 percent for working age people compared to a 77 percent vaccination rate for COVID-19. Primary’s platform enables organizations to run communication campaigns to better engage your workforce to raise flu and other vaccination rates. These campaigns can also incorporate third-party on-site or off-site vaccination providers.
Facilitate testing and encourage paid leave to prevent spread
For organizations with critical in-person operations, facilitating testing is an essential part of the strategy. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as surveillance testing a percentage of your population, self-testing on a schedule, or daily wellness check surveys. Primary’s platform automates these testing programs, which makes them easy to administer and provides the data to monitor the overall health of your organization.
As infections are detected, employees should then access paid sick leave to prevent spread. Early in the pandemic, the country became aware of rapid infection spread in manufacturing settings such as meatpacking plants. Workers were getting sick, but still going to work, fearing they’d lose pay or be fired if they stayed home. This prompted temporary paid sick leave to be added to the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Since then, multiple studies have shown that paid sick leave reduced the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Expedite access to treatment to reduce sick days
There are prescription antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu (e.g. Tamiflu) and COVID-19 (e.g. Paxlovid), which can reduce the number of sick days experienced. However, these antivirals must be prescribed early after the onset of symptoms in order for them to have an impact. Primary can help organizations expedite access to treatment by providing their workforce with an integrated test to treatment workflow. After a test result is logged into the Primary platform, a person can be given rapid access to a telehealth provider and an ePrescription if necessary. For employees, this can help reduce the stress of potential financial penalties for missing work while protecting organizational productivity.
As we head into the peak of the winter season, we hope everyone stays as healthy as possible. We all have cherished family and friends that include children, seniors, or people in at-risk categories. This is an important time for organizations to take action, not only to respond to needs in the present, but to build a culture of long-term preventative health. For more infomation, see our product sheet, and if you’d like to discuss how we can help with the examples shared in this post, please send us a note here.