New Policy Facilitates Vaccinations for Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries. (Recent Health Care Developments)

Article excerpt

A new HHS policy, announced on October 1, is designed to promote greater access to flu and pneumonia vaccinations, especially among older Americans and others at high risk for illness.

The new policy allows nursing homes, hospitals, and HHAs that serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to remind patients when it is time for an annual vaccination and ask if they want to receive a shot. Such "standing orders" can make sure that many high-risk Americans are informed about the benefits of these annual vaccinations and given an opportunity to receive them.

The improvement is included in new Medicare regulations that modify the conditions of participation for hospitals, LTC facilities, and HHAs that serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Previously, those rules required a physician's order for all treatments, including immunizations, in these care settings--although regulations allowed the vaccination to be given without a physician's order in other settings, such as a clinic or a doctor's office.

Standing orders are permanent entries placed in medical charts directing that the patient be told when it is time to get a flu or pneumonia shot and asked if he or she wants the vaccination. If the patient chooses to be immunized, a shot can be administered on the spot by appropriate health care professionals without the need for a doctor to write a new order each year.

Research sponsored by CMS has shown standing orders to be an effective approach to increase immunization rates, but the previous requirement interfered with efforts to use them by hospitals and other health care providers. …