ER Visits Expected to Spike During Flu Season Due to Ebola Scare

Ebola cases in the United States have set off a media frenzy. It’s on the front page of every news website and at the top of every newscast. As hospitals across the country are scrambling to train staffs to treat patients safely, there’s a secondary impact they’re expecting — a spike in ER visits from those with the common flu.
The initial signs of infection are similar, so who can blame the public for being scared and wanting to take precautions? Especially when the Urgent Care Association is requesting patients who suspect they have Ebola to go to the ER, rather than one of their clinics.

How can you avoid a spike in your ER claims?

Communicate: Get in front of the issue now. Let employees know that Ebola only spreads when someone is sick. If they haven’t been exposed, then they probably have the common flu. This infographic from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) illustrates the facts clearly and simply. If you have employees who travel to Africa, you may also want to review your policies and procedures. Check out the recent article from Employee Benefit News entitled “Ebola Fears in the Workplace.”

Educate: Provide tips on prevention and treatment through the flu season (October – March). The CDC offers a library of information and free communication tools. If you have a wellness vendor, they should be able to offer materials to use as well.

Vaccinate: Encourage employees to get the flu vaccine. Emphasize that it is free of charge through your medical plan. Offer onsite vaccine clinics or promote the convenience of local providers.

The CDC estimates employers lose nearly $6.2 billion a year due to seasonal influenza. Factor in the Ebola scare and you can only imagine this year’s impact. Plan now to minimize the cost to your organization.