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Increase Vaccination Rates: Adopt a Common Framework for Digital Immunization Data

data patterns form needle shape

In recognition of World Immunization Week, HIMSS spoke with Samuel Raj, technical director, and Ganesh Sivashanmugam, senior applications engineer at Glenwood Systems – an organization with a product earning the HIMSS Immunization Integration Program (IIP) Seal of Approval. Learn more about their experience as IIP participants in the Q&A below.

Why did Glenwood Systems decide to participate in the HIMSS IIP?

Sam: The short story is – to adopt a common set of capabilities and guidance for immunization registries. We work with many organizations across the U.S., so we wanted to adopt a framework that we could reuse in as many states as possible.

We already have interfaces with some of the states. We felt it was very valuable to adopt the CDC specifications so we have some leading edge for future implementations with other states as well.

Ganesh: The CDC specifications also have some additional functionalities that aren’t available in regular MACRA or meaningful use requirements, so CDC has a few additional things – particularly forecasting functionalities, which is an added bonus when earning certifications.

A collaborative effort of HIMSS, Drummond Group and Chickasaw Health Consulting, LLC, the Immunization Integration Program (IIP) seeks to use electronic health records (EHRs) and other clinical software to improve U.S. immunization rates, which are linked to better health outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, and higher clinician productivity.

What was it like getting started?

Sam: What we have with most of the state-based registries is one-sided: someone gets vaccinated at a certain health system or organization, and we then upload that data to the state-based registry.

However, the CDC’s standard specifications for recognition are much more comprehensive and cover a lot more than what we had done previously. We’ve found that it’s pro-value, and are confident many other states will follow in adopting if they haven’t already.

The value is in the specification, which is more comprehensive and will allow for a quicker adoption process for those willing to implement.

Why is immunization data important to better health for patients?

Sam: Even now, we are seeing how states without any type of immunization data registries are struggling; this data is fundamental for improving outcomes. Even for those who do have registries, we aren’t able to obtain that data directly from them – we can only send the data to them. It’s a difficult process to get the necessary data into the system in a timely matter. Many providers just document the data of the shot, and that’s it – no additional information that other providers may need to be aware of.

With the HIMSS IIP interface, we’re able to get a more comprehensive amount of data for each and every vaccination. It prevents physicians from having to enter the same data multiple times, which can reduce errors as well. Overall, it makes immunization data more reliable and more accessible.

Ganesh: I think even the largest health systems understand that MACRA and MIPS requirements include measures requiring physicians to maintain the status of data related to things like the flu, for example. A lot of times patients will say they had the flu this year, even though they did get the flu vaccination; however, they may not know the exact date or other information about the immunization that may be critical to the provider.

So even for smaller family practices or internal medicine providers – with access to the registry, they can obtain the information needed, which accurately reflects information about the administration of previous vaccinations – which can be used for quality reporting as well.

What have you learned about immunization data from participating in the IIP?

Ganesh: We had not implemented many new core systems before earning this recognition, so learning about other immunization capabilities was helpful. New topics we learned about through this recognition, and did not know about previously, include specific data, like adverse reactions, and forecasting.

Any recommendations you would offer to other vendors interested in implementing these tools?

Sam: I would recommend patience, which is important during the implementation process of any new tool – know that there may be hiccups. For example, we had one instance where a tool kept going offline, but the team we worked with helped resolve it and offered alternate tools for us to use while we figured out the issue.

It’s a valuable addition to any electronic health record (EHR) – to implement such a comprehensive specification for immunization data.

Many benefits exist for implementing these specifications. We will continue to see just how beneficial it can be when even more states across the nation implement these solutions.

Right now, many states don’t even have electronic immunization registries, so we still have more to accomplish, but I’m very hopeful.

Once we can see nationwide implementation – that will be the ultimate achievement.

#VaccinesWork

Learn more about the HIMSS IIP and how health IT empowers organizations to better facilitate the flow of immunization data.

Read World Immunization Week blog posts from other IIP participants here and here.

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#VaccinesWork