Objective: To describe initiatives undertaken by a network of community pediatricians to increase a city's surge capacity for patients presenting with influenza-like illnesses during the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic.
Methods: This was a descriptive quality improvement project detailing the measures employed by a network of private practice community pediatricians in Houston, Texas, caring for both insured and uninsured children.
Results: Four categories of interventions were used: enhanced communication, increasing community pediatrician presence, vaccine distribution, and targeted viral diagnosis and antiviral utilization. Promoting communication between clinicians, families, and an affiliated local tertiary care children's hospital allowed for the efficient coordination of resources as well as a unified and consistent message. Increasing access of families to their primary medical home by employing additional clinicians, extending office hours, and locating additional space served to decrease the number of children with low-acuity illness seen in the local emergency centers. Vaccine distribution was enhanced by effective communication between clinicians and families. Finally, targeted antiviral testing and adherence to national recommendations on antiviral utilization enabled judicious utilization of a limited supply of antiviral medications.
Conclusions: Effective communication and improved access to health care enabled children within the network with influenza-like illnesses to continue to be cared for in their medical home. The measures used in response to novel influenza virus outbreaks can be adapted for other situations requiring increased community surge capacity.