This site uses cookies that are essential for our site to work. We would also like to use non-essential cookies to help us improve your browsing experience and help make this website better, by collecting and reporting information on how you use our site.

How hospitals can prepare for winter illness

By Linnie Greene, Staff Writer at Arcadia
Patient Engagement Population Health Management

From patient engagement to stratification, data and technology can help healthcare organizations manage an influx of winter disease so resources aren’t stretched thin.

As the winter season approaches, healthcare organizations must prepare for an anticipated influx of patients seeking treatment for numerous illnesses, from seasonal flu to acute injuries. The colder months traditionally place an extra burden on healthcare facilities, and last year’s tripledemic overwhelmed many hospitals.

But it’s not all dire. With the right strategies and technology, healthcare organizations can provide efficient care to patients in need without overextending their resources. Here, we’ll explore how hospitals can prepare for the coming season, whether it’s full of surprises or predictably sniffly.

Why winter is a challenging time for healthcare

Hospitals and healthcare facilities typically experience an increase in patient admissions during the winter months due to the heightened prevalence of seasonal diseases. These diseases, including the flu and other respiratory infections like RSV and COVID, can strain the healthcare system. They’re happening alongside other conditions that send people to clinics and emergency departments throughout the year, so it’s an added patient load on top of less seasonally-specific conditions like urinary tract infections, heart disease, and various pains or injuries. Even though these diagnoses aren’t directly related, they all require time and attention, which are ultimately finite, so healthcare organizations can find the additional load particularly difficult.

To efficiently manage the surge of patients and ensure that they receive the appropriate care, it’s critical that healthcare organizations have a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan in place.

How can healthcare organizations prepare for the next tripledemic?

Making an action plan now (before the major uptick in winter diseases) can equip healthcare organizations to thrive, no matter what goes around this year. Here are some key steps to brace for impact and maintain smooth, effective processes all season long.

1. Educate patients

You’ve heard the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — consider how that translates into dollars and time when it keeps patients from taking an unnecessary trip to the emergency department. Preventive measures and vaccinations are a crucial component of public health, and informing patients about them ahead of time increases the odds that they’ll take the appropriate steps.

Implementing a text messaging campaign can be a highly effective way to disseminate this information. By sending educational messages and resources via text, healthcare organizations can inform patients of the risks associated with winter diseases and the importance of vaccination. Through these campaigns, healthcare facilities can provide information about vaccination schedules, locations for vaccination clinics, and the benefits of receiving this care.

They can also route patients to the appropriate venues for care, steering them away from costly locations like emergency rooms and into easily scheduled telehealth or offsite appointments that are mutually convenient.

2. Stratify patients based on risk

Identifying and prioritizing high-risk patients is another essential step in preparing for the winter influx. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and young children, are more susceptible to severe illness from winter diseases. By utilizing data analytics, healthcare administrators can stratify these high-risk patients, making it easier to target them for vaccination or other outreach campaigns.

Data analytics tools can help care managers or administrators identify patients who are due for vaccinations or who fall into high-risk categories based on their medical history. Once these individuals are identified, healthcare organizations can make a concerted effort to reach out to them through personalized communication channels, emphasizing the importance of timely vaccinations.

These efforts can greatly reduce the likelihood of severe disease outbreaks and minimize the burden on hospitals during the winter season.

3. Create a preparedness plan

To effectively manage an influx of winter disease cases, healthcare organizations need a detailed preparedness plan, ready in advance. This plan should include a well-thought-out approach to patient triage, distinguishing between those who should visit the hospital in person and those who can be managed through telehealth services.

Using data analytics, healthcare facilities can monitor real-time data on patient admissions and disease trends. This information can help administrators anticipate surges in patient numbers and allocate resources accordingly. With the ability to quickly identify trends and shifts in the flow of patients that need care, healthcare facilities can ensure that they are adequately staffed and equipped to meet the demands of the winter season.

Finally, healthcare organizations can create provisional campaigns that adapt based on influx of disease or unexpected event. For example, a hospital could have a messaging series ready to deploy in case of high rates of local COVID infection, or information about where to seek care should inclement weather arise. That way, in case of emergency, no one’s scrambling to create outreach from scratch, and there are resources at the ready.

Prepared and driven by data

As the winter season approaches, providers and administrators must proactively prepare for the anticipated influx of patients seeking treatment for winter diseases. Leveraging data analytics and technology can be a powerful tool to stay ahead of the curve, manage patient admissions effectively, and minimize the strain on healthcare facilities.

By taking these proactive measures and harnessing data-driven insights, healthcare organizations can provide better care, improve patient outcomes, and ensure a smoother winter season for both patients and healthcare providers. With the right technology and forward thinking, healthcare can weather whatever the winter brings.

Want to brace for the coming season? Watch more of Arcadia's customer stories and learn more about they're leveraging data analytics to drive better care.