Influenza Prevention

Influenza (the flu) is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Although flu activity can occur throughout  the year in the United States, its peak activity is October through May. Prevention is the best way to protect patients and staff from getting the flu. For this reason, Tufts Medical Center requires everyone who works or volunteers at the hospital to be vaccinated or wear a mask from November 1 through March 31. Based on public health reporting, the date range may be expanded.

Who is involved?

The Infectious Disease Department determines the Medical Center's policy regarding all infection prevention, including the flu vaccination program. Employee Health implements the policy and Quality and Patient Safety reports the progress made by the hospital.  

How are we monitoring the care we provide?

Employee Health collaborates with Quality and Patient Safety to track vaccination data (against the goal of 95%) and gain epidemiologic insight to address concerns in real-time and plan for the future.

What measures are we taking to improve?

We have implemented a number of strategies to increase our vaccination rate. Timely and convenient access to vaccination, scanning technology, along with multiple venues for information and education are key drivers to high vaccination rates. Efforts include putting up posters throughout the hospital, sending out email reminders to employees (and their managers), holding additional vaccination clinics on off hours and weekends, enforcing the mask policy and attempting to educate those who decline vaccination. Additionally, staff caring for patients with suspected or confirmed flu are encouraged to use personal protective equipment (PPE), gowns, gloves and masks, and practice appropriate hand hygiene when additional precautions are indicated.

How are these strategies being evaluated?

Tufts MC’s flu vaccination rate is reported to PatientCareLink, a healthcare quality and transparency collaborative comprised of Massachusetts hospitals, their nursing leaders and home healthcare agencies throughout the commonwealth. The data collected at Tufts MC is compared against other U.S. hospitals.

How are we doing?

Tufts Medical Center has a significantly higher rate of workers who have received the flu vaccine when compared to the U.S. Hospital Average, and there are no incentives given to employees. According to data from the state Department of Public Health (DPH), in 2014, Tufts MC had the fifth highest employee flu vaccination rate (97%) out of 75 acute care hospitals in Massachusetts. Of the nine acute care hospitals with 5,000 or more employees, Tufts MC has the second highest percentage. Only 34 of the 75 hospitals surveyed reached or exceeded the 90% goal set by DPH regulators. 

Tufts Medical Center employees given the flu vaccine in 2014 and 2015.

How can patients and families contribute?

Patients and families should be on alert for symptoms of the flu, which can include a fever (temperature greater than 100.2 degrees), cough, myalgias, headache, sore throat, cough and gastrointestinal complaints.

Visitors should be screened before seeing a patient to avoid spreading influenza in the hospital. The incubation period is 48-72 hours. A person can spread the flu virus 24 hours before showing any symptoms. Screening is crucial to help protect our vulnerable patients.

Source: HHS Hospital Compare Database, December 2015