Time to empower the patient

August 07, 2020

Dr. Juhi Tandon, Clinical Director of Cognitant and GP

The covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world and has had far reaching ramifications for the UK’s economy, education and healthcare. But it has also affected public health; people have been afraid to leave their homes when they are sick let alone to get routine vaccinations.

With the race against time to find a vaccine for covid-19, there is increasing focus on the importance of all vaccines to prevent the outbreak of diseases to reduce the burden on our already overstretched healthcare service. From essential childhood immunisations like the MMR to the flu vaccination, there are concerns that vaccination uptake will drop in the aftermath of covid-19.

syringe inserted into medicine bottle

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England, said: “The national immunisation programme remains in place to protect the nation’s health and no one should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of diseases such as measles, meningitis and pneumonia. During this time, it is important to maintain the best possible vaccine uptake to prevent a resurgence of these infections.”

With winter approaching us, the ‘flu jab’ has never been more important. The government is aiming to vaccinate over 30 million people this winter to ease the pressure on the NHS.

The flu immunisation is one of the most effective interventions we can provide to reduce harm from flu and pressures on health and social care services during the winter.

It is imperative we increase flu vaccine uptake in these groups because of the higher risk of death and serious illness if people in these groups catch flu, particularly as these same groups are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. By ensuring these people don’t get flu they are reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. The Department of Health is hoping to extend the flu vaccination programme to all those above 50 (instead of just those above 65 years old) if vaccine supply allows.

Unfortunately, for a number of years, uptake of the flu vaccine has not met targets set by the World Health Organisation which aims for more than 75% of eligible groups to be immunised. Last year (2019/20) it was 70.6%.

We need to do a better job of providing health information to patients in a way that they understand. Poor health literacy is a public health problem with 43–61% of working adults unable to understand written health information. Whether we are talking about the MMR or the flu vaccination, how best can we get the message out to patients about the importance of such vaccinations? A visual information prescription with interactive and engaging 3D animations is the future.

‘Prevention better than cure’ is the very foundation of general practice; therefore as a Primary Care Doctor, I firmly believe that credible visual information that cuts through literacy barriers, will enable people to better understand their health and empower them to make more informed decisions about their care; in this case, to take up a recommended vaccination.

So to help the NHS with the challenging winter ahead, Cognitant have created a short animation to aid understanding around vaccinations, what they are, how they work and why they are so important. Click here to see for yourself!

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