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Using Information Technology to Improve Adult Immunization Delivery in an Integrated Urban Health System

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Background: Adult immunizations prevent morbidity and mortality yet coverage remains suboptimal, in part due to missed opportunities. Clinical decision support systems (CDSSs) can improve immunization rates when integrated into routine work flow, implemented wherever care is delivered, and used by staff who can act on the recommendation.

Methods: An adult immunization improvement project was undertaken in a large integrated, safety-net health care system. A CDSS was developed to query patient records and identify patients eligible for pneumococcal, influenza, or tetanus immunization and then generate a statement that recommends immunization or indicates a previous refusal. A new agency policy authorized medical assistants and nurses in clinics, and nurses in the hospital, to use the CDSS as a standing order. Immunization delivery work flow was standardized, and staff received feedback on immunization rates.

Results: The CDSS identified more patients than a typical paper standing order and can be easily modified to incorporate changes in vaccine indications. The intervention led to a 10% improvement in immunization rates in adults 65 years of age or older and in younger adults with diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Overall, the improvements were sustained beyond the project period. The CDSS was expanded to encompass additional vaccines.

Conclusions: Interdepartmental collaboration was critical to identify needs, challenges, and solutions. Implementing the standing order policy in clinics and the hospital usually allowed immunizations to be taken out of the hands of clinicians. As an on-demand tool, CDSS must be used at each patient encounter to avoid missed opportunities. Staff retraining accompanied by ongoing assessment of immunization rates, work flow, and missed opportunities to immunize patients are critical to sustain and enhance improvements.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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