Five Effective Strategies for Increasing Immunization Rates

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Clinicians in today’s value-based climate are tasked with delivering care more efficiently and effectively. With this responsibility, providers may find it challenging to maintain emphasis on vaccination schedules with patients. A number of recent articles and studies have looked at effective approaches for keeping patients on track with their immunizations and increasing overall uptake. In addition to being effective strategies, they are also feasible for providers to deploy.

1. Provide a Clear Recommendation
New vaccines often take time to catch on and reach herd immunity, and providers can play an important role in that process. Gardasil was introduced in 2006 to prevent certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). A study of adolescent females seven years later, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that teens were five times more likely to get the HPV vaccine when given a recommendation from their doctor. Sometimes, a clear recommendation can help patients in their vaccinations decisions.  

2. Adopt an Encouraging, Positive Approach with Questioning Patients
As the saying goes, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. The same is true for clinicians when interacting with their patients. Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that a more encouraging and engaged style is effective when discussing vaccines with patients and their family members. For example, instead of educating parents about the merits of vaccine safety, providers can also build trust by acknowledging concerns or questions that patients may have and opening the discussion up to them.

3. Be Proactive in Making Appointments
It may sound simple, but making the appointment is the first step to getting patients in the door. A new study from a team at Rutgers University looked at the effectiveness of doctors being proactive and scheduling patients to receive their annual flu vaccination. When doctors made the appointments, patients were three times more likely to follow through with their vaccination, compared to when they were invited to make appointments on their own.

4. Set Reminders for Vaccination Reviews
In a typical medical visit, there are many issues for discussion between patient and clinician, and limited time to address them. That constraint may lead to missed opportunities for immunization review and planning. Some medical practices are now addressing that challenge by setting specific “best practice alerts” in their electronic records as a reminder to speak with patients about their vaccination history. Additionally, practices are also setting up their communications systems to call and email patients with reminders regarding their vaccination schedules.

5. Get More Practice Members Involved
In addition to these physician-patient approaches, practices are also finding success by empowering additional members of the healthcare team to oversee and support vaccine screenings and schedules, rather than leaving the responsibility solely to clinicians. Recommendations published in the Journal of Family Practice suggest that nurses and medical assistants can be enlisted to help in the direct management of patient vaccinations. Further, a team member, designated as the “practice champion,” can be given the responsibility of helping co-workers stay current on new vaccine recommendations and assist with planning immunizations prior to a patient’s visit.

Put it into Practice
Communicating the best information in a variety of methods can help reach patients in the ways in which they will be the most receptive. By refining strategies in favor of increased uptake as patient populations change, providers will empower patients to make healthy decisions for themselves and help develop healthier communities.