Outdoor flu vax clinic a hit with patients

Matt Woodley

14/04/2020 2:29:41 PM

An innovative response to the coronavirus pandemic has seen one general practice add more immunisation appointments ‘than ever before’.

Compilation pic showing patient receiving flu shot
The outdoor flu clinic provides a safe environment for vulnerable patients to receive their influenza vaccinations.

A practice in Western Australia has developed a creative solution to one of the challenges caused by Australia’s new COVID-19 reality – how to safely deliver increasingly important flu vaccinations to vulnerable patients in a time of social distancing and great anxiety.
The trial ‘outdoor flu vaccine clinic’, based in the practice carpark in Perth’s southeastern suburbs, allows patients to present to for vaccination either in the safety of their own car or on foot without being exposed to crowded waiting rooms.
Additional precautions, such as measuring patient temperatures with contactless forehead thermometers and securing confirmation from patients that are not suffering from infectious symptoms or other ailments, have helped to reduce the risk of community spread.
The innovative approach, established by RACGP WA councillors Dr Lewis Mackinnon and Dr Ramya Raman, has generated an ‘overwhelmingly positive’ response and increased traffic in a time when many practices are struggling with reduced patient numbers.
‘We ran our initial sessions focused on the over-65 population and held these during our non-clinical time on Saturday afternoon and Sundays, when we would normally be resting at home with our families,’ Dr Mackinnon told newsGP.
‘This minimised patients coming into contact with unwell patients attending our clinic for medical care in our usual hours and who may have infectious symptoms.
‘Being able to deliver a system that we felt minimised risk but also projected this sense of safety to others [has] probably contributed to us having no patients missing or cancelling their appointments, which is something we have never encountered before.’
Payment is arranged in advance over the phone for private vaccines, while the practice is also investigating contactless portable EFTPOS. Meanwhile, the use of outdoor furniture has made it easier to disinfect and sanitise chairs and clipboards after each use.
Dr Mackinnon said the unique set up is designed to minimise the risk of community spread and project a safe experience for all our patients, many of whom are nervous about attending a busy clinic or community pharmacy for vaccines.
‘Infrastructure was on our side as the practice has its own car park and road access we could control,’ he said.
‘Whilst in-vehicle vaccination was preferred, for some of our more nervous patients and patients with no vehicles the ‘outdoor walk up clinic’ [also] proved beneficial.’
Patients are able to complete the necessary forms in the privacy of their cars or in allocated seating, set a suitable distance apart, in the practice car park. They are then directed to the next available doctor for their vaccination, after which they wait in the carpark for 15 minutes before leaving.
Aside from reducing the risk of potential exposure to coronavirus for patients, it has also allowed administrative staff to maintain adequate social distancing, as well as patient mingling while awaiting their appointment.
According the Dr Mackinnon, the carpark clinic has meant ‘the easiest part of the day’ is the doctors actually delivering the vaccines either at a desk with privacy screens or at the patient’s vehicles.
‘Our administrative team were excellent in maintaining an efficient flow of patients, [who] were booked in at regular intervals,’ he said. ‘This was essential to prevent delays and unnecessary patient waiting, to allow them to be assessed and given consent forms to complete in advance of their allocated [appointment].
‘It was concerning to us to see the amount of anxiety – and, in some cases, outright terror – about leaving their homes, especially in our more senior patients.
‘We have continued to run our flu vaccination clinic in a similar model and are having to add more sessions than ever before … we would encourage all our colleagues to consider similar approaches.’
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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Dr Irandani Anandi Ranasinghe-Markus   14/04/2020 3:45:41 PM

We at the Avenue Road Medical Practice in Mosman, NSW have been doing the same - a drive through flu vaccination service where doctors go out to the patient’s car and perform the vaccination. Having your anaphylaxis kit with you or in an easily accessible place is an important consideration. We have managed smooth flow of patients between telehealth, in vehicle and fewer face to face consults with no one waiting in the waiting room for the past few weeks. It is safer for both patients and staff.

Dr Gurdeep Singh Bagari   14/04/2020 5:29:25 PM

How are patient monitored once they get vaccine in their car and drive off!! or they stay in Car park for Observation. Are there enough facilities in Car park to manage any adverse reactions??

Dr Vivienne Ann Clark   15/04/2020 9:15:50 AM

Keith SA has had a drive through flu vaccination clinic for some weeks, along with telehealth. Very innovative for a small rural town with no resident GP, relying on locums. People stay in their ute, 4WD, for 10 min or so before driving off. car

Dr Ratnakar Bhattacharyya   15/04/2020 7:06:19 PM

Covid-19 pandemic virus has put entire pay as you go business i.e., trading patients's health for a profit model or for any other commodity for rich and poor a challenge for everyone. When it comes to bulk billing medical practice in Australia solo general practitioners have almost disappeared and now those who are not able to see enough numbers in large practices on a contract basis to remain viable is not surprising . With telehealth in place with patients and public at large now being much more well informed time short all over the world, a lot of unnecessary wasteful visits with costly travel/parking times will disappear.
Only those including doctors and others who can perform and compete complimenting each other for health and well being of nations in aspects of life in the world will shine.