Flu Vaccines are Ready. Are You?

Flu Vaccines are Ready. Are You?

You ordered your flu vaccines months ago and the shipments are due to arrive any day.  You’ll have to figure out where to store the extra inventory, and how to vaccinate your patients in the most efficient manner possible.  It seems like you just finished the last flu season and here you are planning for a new one!  I know you want to put the covers over your head and pretend this isn’t happening, however there are few absolutes in pediatrics:

  • the flu season will happen (When? How severe? How long…who knows.)
  • you must develop a practice strategy for immunizing your patients
  • the more prepared you are to make this go smoothly, the less disruptive it will be for your office when it happens

So, take a deep breath and let’s get started.  

The first challenge: this flu vaccine season will be different. Why you ask? Because there are now going to be both trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine preparations on the market. And guess what? There are new CPT codes and new pricing for these vaccines.

  • Do the payers know about the change, and have they loaded the new codes into their systems?
  • Do they have reasonable payments for these codes?
  • Does your EHR have a responsive timeline to add these codes into your system?
  • Does your vaccine registry have plans to receive this information using the new CVX codes they represent?

You need to ask these questions of the appropriate folks before you accept a shipment of vaccine that you have no way to inventory, submit, or get paid for.

When is the “best” time to start administering flu vaccine? We were always taught “as soon as you receive your shipment” but there has been some buzz about the vaccine not lasting for the entire flu season due to waning effectiveness. The current recommendations regarding timing have not changed, so vaccinating your young adult patients before they head back to college remains a good idea.

How do I notify my patients when I’m ready to start administering flu vaccines? Your website, social media, and office signs are all good approaches. Personally, I think it’s most effective to send an email blast to all of my active patients whose email address I have on file. Email works best when you can accompany the message with the ability to self schedule flu appointments through a patient portal!  It’s really quite simple.  Send the email blast with a pass-through click to your website, place instructions on your website to explain how to sign in and self-schedule a flu shot appointment, and have the parent pick a time slot.  Done.

You say you don’t have that technology? It should be something you consider. I can’t tell you how much my staff loves to watch the flu clinic appointments fill up inside our EHR and NEVER have to answer the phone to schedule these appointments. Last year, one of my colleagues gave nasal flu via a drive-through in their parking lot!  So consider upgrading your EHR technology to include a patient portal.  The time and money you can save, and the workflow efficiencies you create are endless.

Flu vaccines in my pediatric office have always been a source of pride. We deliver great care (flu immunization rates are high and give us high quality/P4P bonus points), we make a reasonable profit (it’s always good to keep pediatric practices solvent–remember, “No Margin, No Mission”) and keeping our patient population healthy in the context of the medical home is one of the things we do best as pediatricians!

Do you have your own unique way of running your flu clinic?  Share your success story by posting a comment in the feedback section of this blog.

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