Survey Shows Family Doctors Taking Variety of Steps to Fight H1N1

With and without vaccines, family physicians are using the latest clinical information to respond to this unique flu season

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6052

LEAWOOD, Kan. – The American Academy of Family Physicians released results today of a national survey that shows its members are arming their patients with the latest information needed to help lessen their risk of contracting the 2009 H1N1 A novel influenza virus. The results also show that family physicians are adapting their practices in order to continue delivering quality care this flu season.

The national poll of AAFP members shows that 92 percent of the family physicians surveyed reported they are educating their patients on ways to reduce their risk of infection by H1N1 virus. Furthermore, the vast majority (95 percent) of respondents indicated they are familiar with the latest clinical guidelines for H1N1 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are following the guidelines in their practices.

In addition, the survey found:
• 84 percent are reviewing patient health records to assess the need for H1N1, seasonal flu and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccinations;
• 81 percent are in contact with local and state health agencies to be notified about H1N1 vaccine availability and H1N1 outbreaks; and
• more than two-thirds (70 percent) have ready access to needed diagnostic testing resources to confirm H1N1 cases.

“As community-based physicians caring for the entire family, family doctors are on the front line in combating H1N1 and seasonal influenza,” said Lori Heim, MD, AAFP president. “The survey shows that family physicians are staying up to date on the current clinical recommendations, working with their patients to promote behaviors that will limit the spread of the virus, and are also adapting how they operate their practices this flu season.”

With influenza activity widespread in 43 states, 78 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were seeing significantly more patients with symptoms typical of H1N1 during the time this survey was fielded.

As family physicians are experiencing an influx of patients with flu symptoms, many are implementing steps at their practice to ensure they are able to provide quality care, while decreasing risk of transmission between patients. More than half of respondents (54 percent) reported being prepared to deal with the illness and absence of staff. Half are prepared to implement telephone triage systems, by which they are able to evaluate and manage a patient's illness, even calling in prescriptions when necessary, without unnecessary exposure to other patients.

Other steps being taken by family physicians based upon survey responses include:
• increasing same-day scheduling for patients with acute symptoms and offering expanded office hours;
• removing reading materials from waiting room, adding hand washing stations and asking patients with flu-like symptoms to wear masks to decrease risk of transmission; and
• providing educational handouts to patients, schools and local employers.

The AAFP has up-to-date educational materials on H1N1 and seasonal flu available at

“While vaccine manufacturers continue to work to meet the demand for the H1N1 vaccination, family physicians are working to educate patients on basic behaviors that can help protect them from getting sick,” Heim said. “For those who do experience flu-like symptoms, their family physicians are ready to treat them based on the latest clinical information.”

An executive summary of the survey and other related materials are available here.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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