Guest editorial by Chad Rodgers, MD, FAAP, Chief Medical Officer, AFMC 

As you likely have heard, we experienced one of the worst flu seasons in decades last year with an attributed death toll of more than 80,000 people. While many of these deaths were among high-risk populations, including the very young and those with chronic health conditions, you can’t ignore that many folks were healthy men and women. It is frightening to me that, despite this, I still see many patients who don’t get the flu shot.

One of the best approaches to encouraging compliance with getting a flu shot is the presumptive approach – “Today, you are getting your flu shot.” A strong endorsement from a trusted physician is an excellent approach to convincing the patient of the importance and effectiveness of the flu shot. Other approaches include offering the flu shot at any doctor’s visit or encounter with your health care staff. Putting up reminders around your office in the waiting room, the exam room, restrooms and lab also often help the patient to remember to get their flu shot while they are there.

Many patients willingly take our advice and comply with the flu shot. But we all know there are patients out there armed with good and bad information about the flu shot. “I don’t get the flu shot because I’ve never gotten the flu,” or “Getting the flu shot gives you the flu” can be answered with truth. As a physician, it is important to respect your patients, but it’s even more important to educate them with the best available facts.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports the effectiveness of the flu shot at saving lives. It is hard sometimes to understand where the patient is coming from, and sometimes it takes time to dispel myths and change minds. There are a multitude of patient resources, including those at afmc.org and cdc.gov. Also, many specialty organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Practice have information for patients that uses plain and understandable language that hopefully meets most of your patient’s needs.

Most importantly, make sure you and your staff are protected against the flu. Providing the vaccine to your employees for no additional charge and making it easy for them to get it at work ensures their compliance as well. Doctor, have you gotten your flu shot? Communicating that you and your staff get an annual flu shot sends a powerful message to your patients and your community. Using social media to get the word out that it is time to get your flu shot and where to get it is an excellent way to get your patients vaccinated.