Among many options for getting the flu shot, the family doctor stands out

By Besse Medical

How do we maintain or increase the number of people that choose to have their flu shot in the safe and familiar environment of their doctor’s office?

Each year there are more and more ways for the public to access the vaccine, and the most important thing is that everyone receives a timely shot through whatever method: from their trusted family doctor, a pharmacy or even from a supermarket. However, more people still choose to have flu vaccinations for themselves and their children at their doctor’s office than at any other location. How do we maintain or increase the number of people that choose to have their flu shot in the safe and familiar environment of their doctor’s office?

We’ve gathered together tips from physician practices across the country about how they encourage their patients to come in for their flu shot:

  • Practices say they try to make it as easy as possible for patients. They match the convenience offered by pharmacies by extending practice hours during flu season and by allowing patients to come in for their shot with no appointment necessary.
  • Believing that their own staff are their best ambassadors, they help them get their flu shots and so encourage patients by example. In its most recent figures, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fewer than two thirds of healthcare workers get their flu vaccination. Practices can consider removing barriers to getting the shot: by providing it for free, by making it available at multiple times and locations and by educating new employees on the benefits of vaccination.
  • As well as making it easier to get the shot, practices can incentivize their staff in other ways. Modest prizes for staff who get their vaccination first will encourage early uptake and give the campaign momentum. Larger organizations can run internal competitions to see which department or team gets the highest vaccination rate. Ask vaccinated staff to wear stickers saying “I got my flu shot, did you?” This will act as a reminder to staff and patients alike to ask for the shot while they are in the office.
  • Have fun and promote your practice and the flu shot at the same time. Just see what this practice in Illinois did!

There are many reasons why it makes good sense to have a flu shot in the doctor’s office, and it’s important to clearly communicate those benefits to patients:

  • No-one knows a person’s health like their family physician. Getting a shot at the doctor’s office maintains the essential patient-doctor relationship, giving practice staff the opportunity to discuss other medical matters at the same time.
  • With their knowledge of the patient, practices are able to send helpful reminders to encourage patients to come in for their shot.
  • Doctors know the best time to get a flu shot to get the longest protection.
  • Flu shots - and all vaccinations - can be easily noted and added to the patient’s medical record. This is especially important for children who, for example, may need a second flu shot four weeks after the first. The family doctor will have the child's immunization record and be able to easily schedule both shots.
  • Some insurance plans may stipulate that flu shots have to be given in a medical setting.
  • Different state laws regulate whether retailers and pharmacists can vaccinate children - the doctor’s office is a safe bet no matter where you are.
  • Physician practices are trained and equipped to deal with allergic or adverse reactions to medical procedures, however infrequently they occur.

Recent studies have shown that significantly higher rates of flu vaccination happen when a practice has a clear strategy for promoting and delivering vaccinations. Successful practices plan their flu campaign in advance; they identify eligible patients through scheduling or practice data; they reach out to patients personally to ask them to come in; and they set targets for staff and reward those who achieve them.

It’s now more important than ever to encourage families to come in for their annual flu vaccinations. Though it takes the entire extended health community to ensure the broadest vaccination coverage of our population, community physician practices still form our best and strongest defense against the dangers of illness, hospitalization and death caused by influenza viruses.

This article is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice. You should consult your physician or other healthcare provider before undergoing any medical treatment.