EHR alert significantly boosts HPV vaccination rates

Simply turning on and using a reminder alert about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine during a patient visit can greatly improve vaccination rates, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

HPV, according to the researchers, is "critical" in helping to prevent cervical cancer, but has the lowest vaccination rate at only 30 percent nationally. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of patients who start the vaccination series do not finish it.

The researchers, from the University of Michigan and elsewhere, studied whether an electronic health record's clinical decision support alert would improve vaccination uptake. They studied 6,010 female patients who received treatment at clinics that had the prompt for the vaccine vs. 9,096 patients who attended clinics without the prompt.

They found that patients ages 9 to 18 were almost three times more likely to start the HPV vaccine and 10 times more likely to complete the series if their doctor received the alert reminding him or her to bring it up during the patient's appointment. Patients ages 19 to 26 were six times more likely to start and eight times more likely to complete the series. These increases were especially important because this demographic of patient often does not go to the doctor unless they're ill, so there's less opportunity for them to obtain the vaccine as a matter of course, according to the researchers.

Other studies have found that clinical decision support alerts can be instrumental in reducing errors and improving patient care.

In addition, customizing clinical decision support tools to better fit a clinician's practice can cause alerts to be even more effective.

"All EHRs should have a functionality for vaccine alerts as a core component," the researchers said. "Further refinements of this process need to be examined to push higher the uptake and timely completion of HPV vaccine. We also need to examine outreach that moves beyond the patient--clinician encounter and may have an even greater impact."

To learn more:
- read the study