OBJECTIVE: To characterize U.S. physicians' practices regarding influenza vaccine, particularly regarding the capacity to identify high-risk patients, the use of reminder systems, and the typical period of administration of vaccine.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional mail survey administered in October and November 2000.
PARTICIPANTS: National random sample of internists and family physicians (N = 1,606).
RESULTS: Response rate was 60%. Family physicians are significantly more likely than internists to administer influenza vaccine in their practices (82% vs 76%; P < .05). Eighty percent of physicians typically administer influenza vaccine for 3 to 5 months, but only 27% continue administering vaccine after the typical national peak of influenza activity. Only one half of physicians said their practices are able to generate lists of patients with chronic illnesses at high risk for complications of influenza, and only one quarter had used mail or telephone reminder systems to contact high-risk patients. Physicians working in a physician network (including managed care organizations) are more than twice as likely to use reminders as physicians in other practice settings (odds ratio, 2.04; 95% confidence interval, 1.17 to 3.55).
CONCLUSIONS: Over three quarters of U.S. internists and family physicians routinely administer influenza vaccine, but few continue immunization efforts past the typical national peak of influenza activity. Many physicians may be limited by their practice data systems' capacity to identify high-risk patients. Despite the known effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of reminder systems, few physicians use reminders for influenza vaccination efforts. These findings raise concerns about meeting domestic influenza vaccination goals—especially for individuals with chronic illness and during periods of delayed vaccine availability—and the possibility of increased morbidity and mortality attributable to influenza as a result.