Vaccinating every child is a lofty goal. But Swedish caregivers believe it’s possible, and they’re determined to help make it happen.
“We’re focused on optimizing opportunities and removing barriers to childhood immunizations,” says Nwando Anyaoku, M.D., MPH, associate medical director for pediatrics at Swedish. Dr. Anyaoku also leads the Pediatrics Primary Care Quality Implementation Committee, whose goal is to continue improving children’s health care. The top priority is to increase the number of children who receive vaccinations.
Dr. Anyaoku sees this happening by casting a wider net of integrated care. For example, the current protocol is for Swedish care teams to review patients’ electronic records for vaccination status, and then cross-check against the state immunization registry. Every clinic receives a monthly report that allows the team to update the immunization records of their patients. If a child is behind schedule or missing a vaccination, their care team can make recommendations to the parent or guardian, and help arrange to get the child up to date on his or her shots.
This fall, however, a new interface will make the cross-check step much easier. In addition to receiving the monthly registry, patient care teams will be able to access it directly through patient electronic charts, meaning faster access to patients’ vaccination status during health visits.
The next phase will fold specialists into the program. “Children who see specialists at Swedish may not be seen by a Swedish primary care provider. We want to have our specialists looking at vaccination records, as well,” Dr. Anyaoku says. “We’re putting everything we can behind this effort. Everyone needs to be focused on immunizations.”
Filling the gap
Although vaccination rates have increased overall, there’s still room for improvement. Nearly 90 percent of pediatric patients at Swedish receive vaccinations, but over 40 percent of all children in Washington are not up to date on their vaccinations. This gap allows diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) and measles to infect and spread. Until everyone is vaccinated, these diseases, and others, will circulate in our communities, causing sickness and even death.
Sometimes parents are the reason children don’t get vaccinated. In spite of rigorous studies and science-backed data showing the safety of vaccinations, myths and misinformation continue to circulate. Parents come across misleading summaries or get their information from other vaccine-resistant parents. They may wonder if vaccines are really necessary, and question if the risks of vaccinating outweigh the benefits.
“We recognize that every parent is coming from a place of love. They’re doing the best they can to protect their children,” says Dr. Anyaoku. Swedish providers are given a toolbox of information and resources to share with parents who are resistant to vaccines in the hope they can ease their fear. They’re encouraged to connect with parents through open and honest conversation, addressing their fears in a respectful manner.
This is how Swedish will reach its goal of 100 percent vaccination rate and foster a pro-immunization culture, says Dr. Anyaoku.
Do you want to speak with a Swedish provider about vaccinations for your child? Would you like an expert to address your concerns? Contact Swedish Pediatrics to make an appointment.