Swine flu response grows

May 15, 2009

Health plan industry keeps stakeholders informed in the midst of the swine flu outbreak.

As the H1N1 virus-or the swine flu-spreads, the most important action now for managed care executives is to keep patients and providers informed of what is happening and what they can do to reduce the risk of transmission, according to experts.

“One way to do this is to post updated information on an easily accessible public Web site,” says Sue Barnes, RN, CIC, national leader, Infection Prevention and Control, Kaiser Permanente Program Offices, Oakland, Calif., and a spokesperson for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).APIC has swine flu information on its site http://www.apic.org/swineflu/.

“Information should focus on the status of the outbreak and also key information regarding how to prevent transmission of influenza, including the swine flu,” Barnes tells Managed Healthcare Executive. “Ensure that the organization or medical center is working closely with local public health departments and obtaining the most up to date information from the CDC to guide response and communications.”

Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC) has created a public Web site portal for its BCBS plans, as well as secure portals for members, employers, producer and provider groups, according to Ross Blackstone, spokesperson for Health Care Service Corp. (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas).

“We are not trying to create any alarm,” Blackstone says. “Still, we realize it is getting a lot of attention right now and we want people know that we are prepared should it escalate.”

HCSC also activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor development of the swine flu and remains on standby to activate its Pandemic Plan should the CDC raise its alert level.

“Additionally, we've prepared special communications for our internal folks in case they need the additional information to communicate with brokers, employers, producers and providers,” Blackstone says. “We’ve also created a special database to store and share information about swine flu.”

Kaiser’s Barnes adds that the public health and clinical communities are working together to ensure that actions are taken immediately in response to any new information regarding the transmission of this novel flu strain.