By Atlantic Health Partners
Keeping vaccine records up to date is key to a patient’s lifelong immunity and health. Official childhood vaccination records have been adopted by every state and territory to encourage uniformity, but limited interoperability in health care can make recordkeeping a challenge. As a result, responsibility for managing records throughout the patient’s life falls on both patients and physicians.
For comprehensive reporting, physicians and patients have the opportunity to approach recordkeeping as a team to ensure a lifetime of protection against disease.
Maintaining vaccine records
Vaccine recordkeeping can be disjointed, with data changing hands frequently over a patient’s life. Because a person’s immunization record is established after their first vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages parents and guardians to maintain the record throughout the child’s life, particularly since schools often require proof of vaccination.
Once the child enters adulthood, the transfer of responsibility for their records may not be seamless. Patients use their medical history to keep track of immunizations, but moving from one physician to another can leave gaps.
Guidance from the CDC suggests that adults who are missing vaccination records turn to records from schools or previous employers, but they may not keep such records on file. And, repeating vaccines without a record may be necessary to safeguard against disease.
Preserving vaccine records
All states participate in or run their own immunization information systems (IIS), a confidential, digital database that records immunization doses administered by physicians. Most pediatricians (90%) use their IIS systems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and 90% of those participants say their registries are key to improving vaccination rates.
An IIS is only as good as its data. State siloes can make it difficult for IIS registries to share data if patients move between states, physicians must work proactively with their patients to transfer missing data to the registry. The data should go beyond immunization dates. Including deeper detail like product names, manufacturers and lot numbers can give a more complete view of immunization history, which is particularly helpful for series like HPV that have changed vaccine specifications.
Setting patients up for success
Patients with missing records and physicians with limited registries must work together to develop and maintain the most accurate and up-to-date immunization records. Physicians can lead these efforts and encourage patients to take greater ownership over their own immunization records.
- Participate in an IIS. Enroll your practice or organization in an immunization registry and commit to sharing all patient vaccination history. Tell new patients about your participation, explain the benefits and encourage them to opt in, if required.
- Use your EHR. Your Electronic Health Record (EHR) system can be a valuable resource for identifying patients who have fallen behind in vaccinations and finding gaps in their vaccination history. Research published in “Applied Clinical Informatics” observed a significant increase (from 65% to 76%) in children receiving the recommended series of vaccinations when their physicians used an EHR to track and manage immunization programs.
- Help patients keep records. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that patients keep an updated vaccination record in their home and bring a vaccine tracking card to every appointment so their physician can keep it updated. During visits, physicians should check with patients to see if they are actively updating their record and offer a new record card, if necessary. Smartphone apps can also help parents keep track of immunizations and overall child wellness.
By taking an active approach to maintaining vaccine records and engaging patients in the process, physicians can help establish and maintain consistent recordkeeping for a lifetime.
For more information, please contact Cindy Berenson or Jeff Winokur at 800-741-2044 or firstname.lastname@example.org