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College gives update on immunization initiative

From the May 2001 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2001 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

The Immunization Initiative’s new Board members

Atlanta—At an Annual Session press conference, College officials gave an update on the ACP-ASIM Adult Immunization Initiative and its efforts to improve internists’ use of immunizations.

“We want to improve immunization practices among doctors of internal medicine,” said Immediate Past President Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MACP. “We need to educate our members about the best practices and the issues surrounding immunization.”

Dr. Fryhofer began by announcing the members of the initiative’s new Advisory Board. She then explained that the College plans to research and evaluate current immunization practices; inform the public of the importance of adult immunizations; educate physicians about the proper administration of immunizations, particularly in high-risk populations; and address safety issues.

A major hurdle in the campaign to improve immunization rates will be overcoming patient fears. “Some patients don’t realize how important immunizations are, that they can keep people healthy,” Dr. Fryhofer explained. “Although it’s clear that flu shots help prevent the leading killer of our seniors, I have patients who say they don’t want the flu shot because they’ll get the flu.”

To help promote awareness about vaccines, the College has created a patient information brochure, “Shots aren’t just for kids.” (Copies of the brochure are available from Customer Service at 800-523-1546, ext. 2600.) The College also publishes updates in ACP-ASIM Observer in its Immunization Booster page, which contains practical information for physicians.

Dr. Fryhofer said that the College will work to convince the government and managed care organizations to address reimbursement issues. “It’s not enough to offer the vaccines if we don’t have a way to pay for them,” she explained.

Panelists Robert Hopkins Jr., FACP, (left) and Preston L. Winters, FACP, discuss vaccine reimbursement issues at a press conferencein Atlanta.

Panelist Preston L. Winters, FACP, a private practice internist in White Plains, N.Y., explained that a nurse recently presented him with a good news-bad news scenario. The good news was that a local insurer had agreed to pay him for administering hepatitis A vaccinations. The bad news? The payment would not cover his costs.

“We paid $59 for the vaccine and were reimbursed $38,” he explained. “We’re not allowed to bill the patient for the extra $21.” Dr. Winters said that he may appeal the decision, but he noted that it will surely cost him more than $21 of his time.

Dr. Fryhofer explained that a former interim chief medical officer for Aetna U.S. Healthcare serves on the initiative’s board and will help the College convince insurers that paying physicians for immunizations is an important part of patient care. Officials at the press conference also said they will use data to show payers and insurers that it is more cost-effective to immunize patients than treat them for vaccine-preventable diseases.

The College is working with organizations like the CDC to monitor physicians’ use of immunizations. The initiative will use the data to benchmark immunization patterns and monitor progress.


The Immunization Initiative’s new Board members

The College appointed the following internists to the Immunization Initiative Advisory Board:

Chair
Gregory Poland, FACP, Mayo Clinic

Members
Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MACP, Emory University School of Medicine, private practice internist

Allan Goroll, FACP, Harvard Medical School

Robert H. Hopkins Jr., FACP, University of Arkansas

Jay Krakovitz, MD, Aetna U.S. Healthcare

Kathleen Neuzil, MD, University of Washington School of Medicine

William Schaffner, FACP, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Katherine Sherif, MD, MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine

Preston L. Winters, FACP, private practice internist

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