Early recognition of patients with suspected influenza will allow for appropriate patient management and reduced risk of transmission. All staff need to be able to recognise the symptoms and signs of potentially infectious diseases. This should include matching patients who present to or call the practice to the current ‘case definition’ of the pandemic and responding appropriately.
Consider developing a checklist for patients and staff to identify potential cases of influenza.
This may include questions commonly asked at reception and examples of expected staff responses. All staff will need training in triage protocols. Ensure triage questions are easily accessible at the reception desk.
Leaflets and notices in the waiting room, posts on the practice website or messages while callers are on hold are additional strategies for providing patients with information to support the triage process.
During a pandemic, health authorities will provide a more specific case definition. Definitions used by health authorities to identify cases of pandemic influenza may change at different phases of a pandemic, as knowledge of the disease increases. General practices need to maintain good communication pathways with state and territory health authorities to ensure timely notification of any changes to case definition or clinical management.