Blue Care Network Best Practices
Solo practitioner makes flu immunizations a priority for his patients
During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why Corey Haber, D.O. says an annual flu shot is an important part of maintaining good health.
"Flu shots are the number one preventive measure that we can offer the general population," Dr. Haber says. Dr. Haber has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years. He is a solo practitioner at Auburn Hills Medical Clinic, a division of Michigan Healthcare Professionals.
The elderly population faces a significantly higher risk of catching the flu, says Dr. Haber. "Older people are more prone to side effects of the flu if they miss their annual shot," he says. His office is diligent about recommending flu shots to every patient from the last week in August through the end of January, particularly since a third of his patients are older adults.
The Auburn Hills Medical Clinic created an outreach program to better serve the elderly population. "If they can’t come to the clinic, we encourage our patients to go to the pharmacy," says Dr. Haber. "Afterwards, I do tell my patients to let us know for our own records."
The outreach program tracks patients electronically if a flu shot is administered at the clinic. Seventy percent of Dr. Haber’s patients get their flu shots in his office. "Patients feel better if they get a shot in our office," says Haber. "They have a medical assistant here they have known for years. Also, if they get a reaction, patients usually are more comfortable in our office."
If a patient has not received a shot, the office mails a postcard as a reminder.
The flu shot is necessary each year, says Dr. Haber. "We have noticed that if a patient misses a year, they will get into the habit of skipping the annual shot," Haber says. In addition, patients with chronic medical conditions tend to neglect other health issues.
While the clinic has taken necessary steps to have more patients take their annual flu shot, there are still setbacks. "Our biggest roadblock is the preconceived notion that the patients will get the flu from the shot," says Dr. Haber.
"The most important thing we can do is to reinforce, to the patient, that this is simply not true," he says.
"Patients may get symptoms, including an elevated temperature or body ache for a day," Haber says. "But we explain that those symptoms indicate that the body is building up antibodies."
When patients are reluctant to get their flu shot, Dr. Haber frequently tells patients that he and his family get an annual shot. "That usually wins them over," he said.
The best advice I can give any doctor, says Dr. Haber, is talk to your patients. "If you have a patient who is resistant, spend the extra five minutes and try to allay those fears that are not based in reality."