As the spring season arrives, a unique combination of pandemic regulations, COVID-19 vaccinations, and the warm, dry weather pose challenges for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Weather predictions indicate that it will be an especially intense allergy season and will be accompanied by increased fear and confusion around symptoms that may be similar to those of COVID-19. Here are some considerations for physicians as this especially complex allergy season approaches.
The Challenges of COVID-19 and Allergy Season
Amid a global pandemic, those suffering from symptoms such as headache, congestion, loss of smell, and runny nose may be asking themselves, “Do I have COVID-19 or allergies?” According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), some symptoms of COVID-19 and allergies may overlap. However, there are some key characteristics of COVID-19, such as fever, that will immediately differentiate the two. Keep in mind that other common infections such as influenza A or B, or the common cold may be more difficult to differentiate between. The AAAAI has provided a useful patient-focused infographic that lists the key symptomatic differences between COVID-19 and other common infections.
Another key concern for allergy specialists is the potential for complications resulting from an adverse reaction to one or more ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) has published warnings related to specific allergies and has issued guidelines about preparing for and identifying a severe vaccine reaction. And there is some confusion about possible COVID-19 vaccine side effects, such as fever, chills, and muscle aches, that are not allergic reactions, but expected immune responses to the vaccine.
What this means is that there is an overlap between COVID-19 symptoms, vaccine reactions, and traditional allergies that creates a demand for allergists and other specialists that heavily outweighs the availability. While there are only 3,000 practicing allergists in the US, more than 50 million citizens suffer from allergies each year. Therefore, primary care providers, pediatricians, and non-specialty physicians should be equipped with testing and treatment to meet the demand.
Meeting the Increased Demands of the Allergy Season
To prepare for increasing challenges, allergists and other physicians should utilize technology for streamlined communication and collaboration. Tools that physicians can use include:
- Telemedicine for pre-screening
- “Smart” surveys and pre-screened applications
- Electronic patient notifications and alerts
- Digital patient check-in
- EHR patient health portals
In addition to these tools, all physicians should familiarize themselves with and implement CDC safety recommendations for patients with allergies who will be receiving vaccinations for COVID-19. Some of these recommendations include the following:
- Those with a history of food, pet, insect, venom, environmental, or latex allergies are able to receive the vaccine with a 15-minute observation period.
- Those with a history of severe allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) should use caution when receiving COVID-19 vaccines and should follow a 30-minute observation period.
- Those with a history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of vaccines should not be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
As the country recovers from COVID-19, doctors can expect to see a return to “normal” business demands with decreased pressure. However, a new “norm” is emerging, with altered consumer expectations regarding telehealth services and tools. Physicians should adopt these streamlined technology tools as soon as possible, as they will serve their business and patients well into the future as expectations increase.
Software to Help Doctors Meet the Demand
With increased demand comes the need to pivot toward new technology that will help your practice stay ahead. These tools will help overworked and busy allergists and other physicians streamline communication with patients and mitigate their practice risk.
RXNT’s suite of healthcare software offers some of the best ambulatory medical communications and telehealth-friendly tools on the market, including:
- “Smart” forms for allergists that will streamline charting during busy allergy season
- Telehealth-friendly software for when an in-person visit isn’t practical, safe, or necessary
- Request lab orders and receive results electronically in the EHR, and display on the fully-integrated Patient Health Records Portal
- Patient Portals to preload known allergies and help avoid adverse drug interactions
- Electronic prescribing alerts for drug-to-allergy interactions
This allergy season will come with increased challenges for all physicians, but integrating the correct technology into your workflow will help you meet the needs. RXNT provides custom software solutions for physicians to meet the growing demand. Contact us or schedule a demonstration today to find the right solution for your practice.