The beginning of a new flu season marks a time for primary care physicians to consider how to vaccinate patients without falling into costly pitfalls.
“Some physicians are confused about vaccine schedules or about coding or they are afraid that they may lose money,” says Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, an Atlanta, Georgia-based internist in solo practice and an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
All of these obstacles are surmountable, says Fryhofer, who is also the American College of Physicians’ liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
“If coding and ordering are done properly, you should not lose money on vaccinations, and you should even be able make a small profit,” she says.
Be a champion
Before physicians dive into flu season, they need someone to lead a flu shot campaign for patients.
“When you are offering immunizations in your office, you need to find a champion, someone who will lead the march to encourage adult immunization and get patients on board,” says Fryhofer. A “champion” does not have to be the physician, but can be a nurse, office manager or medical assistant. And there can be many vaccine champions who take up the cause.
“To champion it, you have to have resources,” she adds, noting that the ACIP website has extremely useful patient information sheets. Fryhofer keeps a copy of all the educational sheets in a notebook in each exam room, and asks the patient to read about the vaccine while she engages in other tasks. “These materials tend to answer about 95% of the questions that patients will ask,” she says.
Studies, including a recent one published in May in Vaccine by CDC staff, have shown a recommendation from a physician is one of the most important deciding factors in the patient’s decision to be vaccinated. Peng-Jun Lu, MD, Ph.D., one of the study leaders, told Medical Economics that incorporating vaccine discussion as part of the standard patient assessment can help reduce missed opportunities for adult immunization.
“All healthcare professionals should routinely assess patient vaccine needs and recommend the appropriate vaccines to ensure their patients are protected against serious, sometimes deadly, diseases,” she says.
Fryhofer’s passion to ensure that patients receive appropriate vaccinations led her to develop “Move the Needle: Raise Adult Immunization Rates,” an online toolkit of resources, including information about vaccine schedules, the financial aspects of offering vaccines, coding information, updates and research and other vaccine-related materials that are relevant to medical practices.