Send Your Patients Back to School Protected!

It’s summertime in your practice, and while you aren’t seeing high volume patients with colds, coughs, and fever, you should still be busy. A successful pediatric practice should be entrenched in the core practice of pediatrics: preventive care! That includes conducting developmental screens in young children, screening for perinatal depression in new mothers, and risk behaviors in our adolescents. Vaccines are a cornerstone of preventive care and should be a part of all well visits, but not well visits exclusively. We must remember to use every opportunity to get our patient’s immunizations up-to-date.

Best practices include using every contact with the patient and family to review their immunization status. Does your patient need a form signed to attend camp? Are they asking you to sign their driver’s permit form? Are they registering for kindergarten? Do they have a state-mandated middle school health form to complete? Make sure their well visit is up-to-date according to the Bright Future periodicity schedule and their immunizations are complete according to the CDC/ACIP schedule.

As we move toward population health, it’s even more important that we proactively reach out to our patients to recall patients who are due for care, and send reminders to those already scheduled. Using one of the core features of Meaningful Use is to contact families according to their preference. This has been shown to improve patient engagement. In my practice, the most successful contacts have been via text-to-cell.

So what should you do now? You should first identify who your patients are who are overdue for well visits and vaccines. Reach out to them proactively and get them scheduled. Identify someone in your practice who owns this project and leads it as part of a Quality Improvement initiative. Have them run the report at least monthly and create a team who can do appropriate follow-up. And make sure you have availability in your schedules to accommodate these patients!

Next, make sure that you have practice educational efforts to help your families understand the importance of preventive care and vaccines. Use your patient portal, social media, your website, posters in your office, and patient exit notes to spread good information about this important part of health and wellness.

Lastly, use every opportunity to give good care to your patients, and that includes making sure their vaccines are up to date. Empower your staff to notice a patient’s vaccine status while they are on the phone with a parent. Check sibling’s charts when one child is in the office. Create a back-to-school campaign that includes a checklist for family preparedness where getting your vaccines up-to-date is number one on the list above a new backpack and lunchbox!

You have great information in your EHR at your fingertips. Find out where there are gaps in care and work to close them. You will improve the health of your patients and your school nurses will appreciate a student body that is up-to-date!

Sue Kressly

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