For the first time, potential patients can compare health care worker influenza immunization rates as part of the online hospital quality data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

While that may not have been a blockbuster story for the broader news media, hospital leaders have taken notice and are placing more emphasis on achieving high vaccination rates.

It is now common for hospitals to require employees to receive the flu vaccine or to wear a mask during the flu season.

Of the 3,676 acute-care hospitals reporting their rates for the 2013-2014 flu season, 58 reported 100% coverage.

Almost 200 hospitals reported a flu vaccination rate of 99% and another 200 reported a rate of 98%.

In fact, more than a third (37%) of all hospitals reported a rate of 90% or above – the HealthyPeople 2020 goal that has been promoted by The Joint Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The influenza immunization rates reported by CMS include all employees, licensed independent practitioners (contracted physicians and advanced practice nurses), students, volunteers and trainees who worked in the facility for even one day during the flu season, from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.

Unknown status or even medical contraindications would lower the rate.

“[Hospitals] clearly don’t want to be outliers when it comes to this change in practice across the country as more and more institutions move to a variety of mandated programs,” says William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

“Many of them now record immunization rates above 90%. Having your institution stuck at 72% begins to look inappropriate and no longer the norm. That motivates CEOs to say, ‘We have to do better and we’re going to do whatever it takes.’”