In The News

November 14, 2016

5 tips to get your patients to take flu shots, earn reimbursement for your practice

Happy flu season! Every year around this time, physicians push to have more of their patients get vaccinated – and earn the practice up to $42.72 for each shot, according to recently released flu vaccine prices. But what makes it happen? Here are five tips:

Make it a practicewide initiative promoted by management. That’s how Healthcare Partners Medical Group in Long Beach, Calif., moved the needle, says David M. Hirota, M.D., an infectious disease and internal medicine provider with the organization. Healthcare Partners’ chief medical officer “asked us to track vaccination rates and set hard targets. For the first time, there was mobilization and movement around this,” says Hirota.
Because the boss said it was important, everyone else accepted that it was, he adds. Over two years, Healthcare Partners’ vaccination rate is up as much as 15%.

Keep the staff informed and motivated. Healthcare Partners post their vaccination scores internally as they come out. “Putting out the scores every couple of weeks has been sort of the primary driver,” says Hirota. They also disseminate vaccine updates to nursing managers and conduct webinars for the staff, clinical and non clinical. This keeps the increased vaccination goal top of mind.

Debunk the misconception that the vaccine causes the flu. Ask your patients who decline why, and use what you learn from the literature and from experience to answer their concerns.

“Take the AfricanAmerican population,” says Hirota. “I saw a journal article that found AfricanAmericans as a group are more likely to decline the vaccine because of concerns about getting the flu from it and are also more inclined to report sideeffects from it.”

That vaccines can give you the disease they’re meant to treat is a common misconception; “I even hear clinicians say it,” says Hirota. Here’s how to handle it: “Do acknowledge that one’s system reacts to the vaccine as the immune system revs up after the shot,” he says. “Don’t discount their experience; suggest they take Motrin to diminish the effects, but don’t just blow them off.”

Also, a lot of people say flu vaccine doesn’t keep senior citizens from getting the flu – and a 2012 metaanalysis of vaccine effectiveness appearing in Lancet Infectious Diseases appeared to support that impression. “But if you look at other studies, you find vaccinations prevent seniors from some trips to the hospital or the ER – a decrease in these visits of 45% to 60% depending on the season,” says Hirota. “It doesn’t keep them from getting the flu, but from having severe flu to the point of seeking medical attention. I see people die from the flu, and in 90% to 95% of the bad flu cases, these patients are the ones who did not get the flu vaccine.”

Mount a campaign that’s relevant to your patient population. “Put signs in the waiting room with flu statistics that will be meaningful to the audience,” says Marilyn Heywood Paige, vice president of Fig Advertising in Denver. For example, "three to seven days is the time it takes for a regular case of flu to go away. The associated cough and fatigue can linger up to two weeks. Get your flu shot today and avoid unwanted down time."

Also, work the invitation to a flu shot into all the contact points – making appointments, confirming appointments and website visits.

Encourage them in person. Health fairs are a popular venue for practices hoping to draw in new patients with a flu shot drives (PBN 12/8/14). Get creative with it too. Paige recommends going onsite at local apartment buildings, senior living communities, afterschool programs, Chambers of Commerce and large corporate campuses. “Every patient gets a flyer from your office with information about the other services you offer and how easy it is to make an appointment,” says Paige. – Roy Edroso (redroso@decisionhealth.com)