A new study by Rutgers researchers has found that patients are more likely to get their influenza vaccine when medical appointment scheduling is done by the physician’s office. In other words, asking patients to schedule their own appointments does not work as well as if their doctor did it for them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older – with few exceptions – get their annual flu vaccination. According to the CDC, flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, while there were an estimated 12,000 to 56,000 flu-related deaths. About 20,000 children under age five are hospitalized each year because of influenza complications, with cases leading to death. These estimates indicate the importance of getting vaccinated.
The Rutgers study, which was published in the journal Behavioral Science and Policy, was based on an evaluation of 886 patients at a medical practice. The patients were put in the three groups in order to assess the vaccination rates for viral influenza. The study found that:
- 16 percent of the patients who had appointments made for them showed up for the vaccine
- Only 5 percent of those who were asked to make their own appointments showed up for the shots
- Only 2 percent of those who got no instructions kept their appointment.
- Vaccination rates for viral influenza increased three times when physicians take a proactive stance and pre-schedule flu shots for patients.
The researchers also found that pre-scheduling did not attract patients to the doctor’s office who were planning to get vaccinated at work or at their local pharmacy. The most effective strategy to encourage more people to show up for their flu shot and reduce the risks of influenza was to get the physician’s office to do the patient appointment scheduling.
There are four types of influenza viruses – A, B, C and D – for which physicians recommend annual vaccination. In the U.S., human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease during winter. Influenza type C infections usually cause a mild respiratory illness. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle. As the virus keeps modifying genetically, flu vaccines are needed every year. For the 2016-2017 season, the CDC recommends use of injectable flu vaccines – inactivated influenza vaccine (or IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).
Last year, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that many parents have negative beliefs about flu vaccine. The survey found that fifty-nine percent of parents whose child did not receive the flu vaccine said it was less important than other childhood vaccines. Experts say that health care providers can play an important role in addressing parents’ negative perceptions and fully explain importance of the flu vaccine for children. The Rutgers study’s findings go further by highlighting the importance of physician led medical appointment scheduling to increase vaccination rates. Today, busy practitioners can rely on experienced outsourcing companies to manage this important but time-consuming task of managing patient appointments online.