EHRs critical in HHS' attempts to improve adult vaccination rates

Electronic health records are an important component in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' goal to increase adult vaccination rates, according to the agency's National Adult Immunization Plan.

The plan, released earlier this month, notes that progress in increasing immunization rates has been "slow" and that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities. Increasing the use of EHRs and immunization information systems (IIS) to collect and track adult immunization data is a key way to strengthen the national adult immunization infrastructure, one of the plan's four goals in raising adult vaccination rates.

Specific goals related to electronic records systems include:

  • Increase the ability of EHRs to generate a query and accept a standardized immunization history and forecast consistent with the Meaningful Use program
  • Increase the ability of IIS to accept such a query
  • Increase the adoption of standardized transport methods to allow for more consistent information exchange to all who provide adult vaccines
  • Improve functionality to facilitate interstate data exchange through a centralized hub
  • Develop and disseminate model agreements to address the legal and policy barriers that preclude data sharing
  • Develop clinical decision support for adult vaccinations
  • Expand consumers' access to the own vaccination data through EHR and IIS patient portals.

The plan states that that better EHR and IIS technology can lead to better record keeping regarding adult vaccinations and submissions to IIS that "addresses the barrier of unknown vaccination history, avoids the administration of duplicate doses of vaccine and helps ensure that opportunities for vaccination are not missed."

The other key goals of the plan are to improve access to adult vaccines, increase the community demand for adult immunizations, and foster innovation in adult vaccine development and vaccine related technologies.

Studies have shown that the simple act of using an EHR's reminder alert can greatly improve vaccination rates for both children and adults. Increasing vaccination rates also can increase a physician's reimbursement.

At the eHealth Initiative's annual conference this month, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo shared her thoughts on the potential of technology and an improved, data-driven infrastructure for public health efforts. Overall, she said that the current state of public health, particularly regarding technology use, is behind the times.

"I just don't see how we can continue to have a public health infrastructure in this country unless it's more data and information enabled," DeSalvo said. "We have the information; we need to now ... fulfill that promise. This is about the public's health and not just about the healthcare sector."

To learn more:
- check out the plan (.pdf)