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Tracking immunizations at St. John’s Health made easier through interoperability

by St. John’s Health

Published on 6/24/2022

“I don’t know. I think I got that vaccine.” This is a phrase clinicians at St. John’s Health, a CommunityWorks facility in Jackson, Wyoming, frequently hear from their patients. Oftentimes, patients do not recall where or when they have received immunizations. Without the proper workflows in place, it can be difficult for providers to track and manage this information.

In 2019, St. John’s Health began using Cerner’s Immunization Registry Reporting and Query to electronically send vaccine data to the Wyoming Immunization Registry (WyIR) and retrieve information to reduce manual processes. It’s a tool that's used all day, every day across the ambulatory clinics and in the inpatient space to exchange vaccine data almost immediately.

Before Immunization Registry Reporting and Query was setup, clinicians had to log in separately to WyIR to view and record vaccines. If immunizations were given anywhere across the St John’s Health system, someone would need to document that information in both the EHR and the WyIR site. This required a lot of extra work, such as maintaining spreadsheets and inputting that data into the system at the end of each week.

“It's way more efficient to have that bidirectional interface,” said Susan Freeze, RN CAHIMS, provider applications manager. “When we give vaccines, those automatically get transferred over to the state without any extra effort after doing our documentation in the EHR. We don't have to manage as many separate logins, push any buttons or do anything. I’d estimate that we're saving several minutes per patient and then hours per week because of this capability.”

From October 2021 to March 2022, clinicians at St. John’s Health viewed more than 4,100 immunization reports (98.9% of all available reports) and electronically imported more than 2,730 of those into patients’ records using Immunization Query.

When the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, sending vaccine information promptly to the state was even more critical.

In order to release COVID vaccine shipments to different entities, Wyoming required that all vaccines be reported to the state within 48 hours of administration. Freeze worked with the Cerner team to quickly get everything in place to electronically push these brand-new vaccines to the state registry. The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) came out on a Friday, and St. John’s Health gave their first doses on the very next Tuesday. Almost instantaneously, the immunizations were recorded in WyIR.

“Instead of having someone sit there and do those hundreds and thousands of manual and duplicate data entries, we could do all of our work in the Cerner EHR,” said Freeze.

St. John’s Health is a small but mighty organization. With the first round of COVID vaccines, they were able to administer around 10,000 doses to their most exposed population including the elderly, immunocompromised persons, healthcare workers and others.

“Without the functionality to get those doses recorded in the Wyoming registry within that required 48-hour period, we wouldn’t have been able to continue getting shipments, give those second doses and get people vaccinated as quickly as we did,” said Freeze.

As the flu season approaches later this year, St. Johns Health is planning ahead. They intend to apply the lessons learned from their prior COVID-19 experience to future flu seasons. This proactive approach will help to fill gaps in care and provide more complete health records.

Ultimately, the goal for all of us is always better, more efficient patient care. “Immunization Query is a prime example of a tool that keeps us with the patient longer and spending less time at the computer,” said Freeze. “Chances of having an incomplete patient record are greater without that query, and having that ability to pull in patients’ comprehensive health history is crucial to reducing duplicate vaccinations, saving patient costs, and providing overall better care.”

Data for this story was pulled utilizing Cerner Lights On Network®.

Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.