Immunization Information Systems Help Track Vaccinations

James Daniel; Rebecca Coyle and Alison Chi | August 27, 2014

Did you know there are health IT tools that can help you and your providers track your vaccinations?

They are known as Immunization information systems.  These systems are confidential, population-based, computerized systems that record all vaccination doses administered by participating providers to people within a given area.

Immunization information systems play an important role in creating a comprehensive immunization record for you by consolidating vaccinations administered by different providers into one electronic record. These systems also provide clinical decision support, to look at your immunization history and generate a forecast or recommendation of vaccines to administer based upon the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) recommendations for vaccination. You can then decide whether you would like to receive the suggested vaccinations. If your clinician is already using these systems, patient reminders or recalls for immunizations also can be generated and sent directly to you.

Immunization information systems, also known as immunization registries, have been around for over 20 years and provide immunization records that can be used by schools, childcare providers, colleges, and camps. While usually run by state, city or regional public health agencies, these systems typically have evolved through close partnerships with health-care professionals, especially pediatric and family physicians, and increasingly with health-care providers who serve adults. The latter may include primary care providers, specialists, hospitals, and pharmacists who — in some communities — are the main providers of adult flu and pneumococcal vaccines.

Depending on state laws, schools and health plans also participate in these systems and have been valued partners who are able to use the data to determine immunization trends and to advance public health improvements. An example of one partnership is through the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, or HEDIS. Used by more than 90 percent of America’s health plans, HEDIS measures performance on important dimensions of care and service. Immunization information systems help health plans complete their HEDIS reports by supplying de-identified and aggregated immunization data for HEDIS’s Childhood Immunization Status measures.

In recent years, immunization information systems have played a bigger part in supporting support the federal Vaccine for Children (VFC) program by assisting providers, states, and the federal government in accurately and efficiently monitoring vaccine supply within a provider’s office and at the state or local level. This includes implementing vaccine ordering and inventory management modules that allow providers to order vaccines and record vaccine storage equipment temperatures.

How do immunization information systems work?

In the early years of these systems, clinic staff usually entered immunization data directly (manually) into the software. Today, with health information technology coming of age, real-time data exchange between immunization systems and electronic health record systems (EHRs) is eliminating many of the previous challenges.

There are certainly still challenges – but there is great progress too.

Immunization information systems serve as a model for how information systems can benefit public health. Recent federal initiatives, such as the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs which provide financial incentives for the meaningful use of certified EHR technology, have focused on the interoperability between immunization information systems and EHRs while continuing to support the fundamental needs of immunization programs and public health initiatives.

What does the future hold?

To be a truly useful tool, an immunization information system must receive and contain data that is timely, accurate, and complete.  Two national objectives of the Healthy People 2020 plan are

  1. To increase to 95 percent the proportion of children less than six years of age participating in an immunization information system and
  2. To increase the number of states that have 80 percent of adolescents between 11 and 18 with two or more age-appropriate immunizations recorded.

Progress already has been made toward attaining the first objective — with 25 states already at 95 percent or better and a national average of 86 percent (per 2012 data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Adolescent participation is increasing, but only 9 states were meeting the objective as of December2012 (the last year for which data is available).

To meet these objectives, a vast majority of providers must sign on and commit themselves to contributing to and using the data from their regional or state immunization information systems. As more providers use these systems the goal of interoperability will be achieved, which will ultimately allow immunization providers to work more efficiently, identify patients due for immunizations faster, and ensure that people get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

For more information on the status of Immunization Information Systems, please see the articles in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice External Links Disclaimer July/August 2014 – Volume 20 – Issue 4.