A bi-weekly newsletter from your physician organization
Friday, March 12, 2021
Childhood immunizations important as schools reopen
As more schools across Michigan are moving to some form of in-person learning again, it is a good time to remind parents and families of the importance of routine vaccinations. Childhood vaccination rates have dropped at an alarming rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Outreach to patients and families can be done in a variety of ways, including social media, posters, patient portal messages/reminders, phone calls and more. Messaging should focus on:

  • importance of catching up on missed doses
  • reminders of maintaining routine vaccinations
  • communicating protocols implemented at provider offices to keep patients and families safe during well-child and vaccine visits

Several helpful campaigns were created to help practices outreach to patients and families during COVID-19. Each offers different handouts, social media graphics and more that are free to use.

Free and low cost vaccination programs for families:
  • If insurance coverage and payment are concerns for families, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program offers free vaccines to families who cannot afford to pay for their children’s vaccines, up to 19 years of age (administrative fee or co-pay may apply). Learn more about Michigan's program.

  • Children (up to 19 years old) who need health insurance may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP benefits are different in each state, but all states provide comprehensive health insurance for children up to age 19, including vaccinations. Information on CHIP in Michigan can be found here.
Cancer screening metrics need improvement during COVID-19
Diagnoses of many cancers were lower in 2020, however, it isn't exactly welcome news. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer screenings were lower due to backlogs of appointment availability from COVID-19 restrictions and patient safety concerns about contracting the virus. These undetected cancers can lead to more severity of cancer type or increases in cancer-related deaths in the coming years.

Physicians play an integral role in encouraging patients to get important health screenings. The Physician Alliance created several patient education materials relating to key cancer screenings, including mammograms, Pap tests, colorectal cancer and others. Practices can share these materials with patients as reminders and to initiate important conversations.
Short videos highlight key tips for coding, panel management
Ongoing changes in healthcare can sometimes lead to confusion in certain areas. The Physician Alliance created some quick, easy to follow animated videos to help provide an overview of coding and panel management, as well as offer tips for improving these areas.

These 3-minute or less videos include:

  • Panel Management in an Organized System of Care
  • Clarifying the Confusion of Coding: Diagnostic Coding and Risk Adjustment in a Physician Practice
  • Why Coding Matters

Preparing for the 2021-2022 flu season: Lessons learned from COVID-19
Although flu season generally runs from October through April, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preparation is a year-round activity. The typical preparation providers and medical practices perform is routine and doesn’t vary much from year to year — except in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic added an unexpected complexity that upended typical flu season preparations but also provided lessons for dealing with unusual public health circumstances.

Prepare for the unexpected
Fortunately, flu activity has remained exceptionally low this season, as reported in the CDC’s weekly “FluView.” Health experts at Hartford Healthcare suggest that COVID-19 precautions, such as social distancing, face coverings, and less in-person activity, have helped curb the spread of flu.

Patient demand for the flu vaccine can change
The CDC reports that the U.S. has distributed its highest number of flu vaccine doses ever recorded—192.3 million. Additionally, by the end of December, the CDC estimated that 53-54% of adults received a flu vaccine, an increase from 48% during the previous flu season. The pandemic increased demand, and providers who planned ahead were in a better position to serve their patients’ and the public’s needs.   

Reconsider when to administer the flu vaccine
Generally, the CDC recommends patients receive the flu vaccine by the end of October to provide optimal protection and ongoing immunity. This past year, with concerns over a “twindemic,” many patients began receiving flu vaccinations in late August and September. While traditional timelines and administration practices remain ideal, flexible alternatives, such as drive-thru vaccination clinics or administering the vaccine as a complement to other care appointments, can help ensure higher flu vaccine uptake.

There are steps providers can take now to ensure their practice is prepared and properly stocked with the flu vaccine for the 2021-2022 season. One of the best ways to prepare is placing advance orders between January and March. The challenges and lessons learned from the past flu season will help providers continue to adapt and provide patients with the best care and protection against the flu.

Source: Atlantic Health Partners, an Affiliate Partner, offers preferred pricing on vaccinations and an annual rebate to TPA members. Click here for more information and to sign up for the vaccine purchasing program.
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