Monday, June 27, 2011
The Southeast Minnesota Beacon Program has made headway increasing influenza immunizations to improve overall health care for people with Type 2 diabetes and children with asthma. Beacon is also improving reporting of flu shots in Minnesota.
Influenza can put those with underlying medical conditions at risk for greater complications — and may even be life threatening. Such patients should consider getting vaccinated annually. With that in mind, the SE MN Beacon Community developed a project to assess and monitor influenza immunization rates among those patient populations and address barriers for the unvaccinated.
Some level of influenza vaccination reporting is taking place in the state now, so there was already some data available. For the study, Beacon used available influenza vaccination data from the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection, the state immunization database overseen by the Minnesota Department of Health, and cross-referenced it to the known asthma and diabetes patients on record at their respective site of the SE MN Beacon Program's participating institutions — Mayo Clinic, Winona Health Systems and Olmsted Medical Center. The idea was to assess how many of these "high risk" patients had received their influenza shot at that point.
Those with no reported flu shot were sent a letter from their provider reminding them of the importance of getting vaccinated and asking those who did receive the shot to report where they were vaccinated. It turned out that more than half the respondents had influenza vaccinations. In addition, more than 50 people got vaccinations after receiving their letter.
"It was important that we were able to get some of our targeted population vaccinated through our proactive letter effort," says Lacey Hart, SE MN Beacon Community program director. "But even more valuable for our group was the realization that there were some real gaps in who was actually reporting immunization data to the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection's database."
The group realized that many of those providing immunizations in non-provider settings were not reporting immunization data to the state's database. For example, while all pharmacies are required to send immunization information to a person's primary care physician, only 14 of the identified 120 pharmacies in Southeastern Minnesota share that data with the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection program. It is unclear what the reporting processes are for other immunization providers, such as schools, employers and long-term care facilities.
With those issues in mind, the SE MN Beacon Community is working on the next phase of the pilot project. The group plans to assess reporting practices of the various immunization providers and focus on educating and communicating with them. "We're also going to look at the possibility of developing plans for school districts and others to facilitate data sharing with the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection," Hart says.
Ultimately, the group hopes that each provider will have complete and accurate immunization records regardless of where the patient obtains vaccinations. This, in turn, will help health care providers more accurately determine those with underlying conditions such as asthma and diabetes who have not received vaccinations for diseases such as influenza. Providers can then encourage them to get vaccinated, which could keep them healthier, cut their medical costs and even save lives.
The Beacon Community Program was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to better harness the power of technology within health care. Part of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the program aims to fund projects that use technology to improve coordination and delivery of health care while lowering costs.
Southeast Minnesota was one of 17 areas across the country to receive a Beacon award. Through collaboration between Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health System, Olmsted Medical Center, Winona Health, and other health professional entities in the region, the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community was born.
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