ED Accreditation Update

The Joint Commission challenges facilities to improve staff flu immunization rates

Joint Commission Resources (JCR) has launched a "Flu Vaccination Challenge" to underscore the responsibility that hospitals have to help keep their employees and patients healthy this flu season and to increase flu vaccination rates among health care workers.

JCR notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics for the 2005-06 flu season show that only 42% of surveyed health care workers received a flu vaccination. The "Flu Vaccination Challenge," which began Sept. 1, 2008, continues until May 2009.

Hospitals that achieve a vaccination rate of 43% or more will be recognized for their dedication to helping keep their employees healthy and helping to protect their patients. "This program is a great complement to existing [Joint Commission] standards," says Louise Kuhny, RN, MPH, MBA, CIC, senior associate director of standards interpretation for The Joint Commission. "It should serve as a challenge to all hospitals to try to make patient safety a priority by decreasing the spread of influenza. If you increase the immunization rate of health care workers, the infection is less likely to spread to patients."

Kuhny says The Joint Commission has not yet determined what form the recognition will take, "but there will be some sort of ability for the facilities to have public recognition."

Some emergency medicine experts, however, believe the goal of a 42% immunization rate is too modest, given the fact that some facilities have achieve rates of 95% and higher. "I was disappointed with 43%," says David Ross, DO, an emergency physician at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, CO, and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. However, Kuhny counters by saying, "That's a national average. There are some organizations that do significantly better, but those that already do well will be recognized and able to broadcast that fact to their communities and able to share their successes with those who may be struggling."

Kuhny notes that on the flu challenge web site, where hospitals can register for the challenge, there are recommendations for best practices. (Editor's note: Go to www.fluvaccinationchallenge.com. Click on "Resources," then "NFID Best Practices.")

Know 5 expectations

The Joint Commission's influenza standard (IC.4.15) also offers guidance for ED managers and hospital leaders looking to improve their staff vaccination rates. The standard has five Elements of Performance (EPs), says Kuhny. The expectations are:

  • Hospitals should have a vaccination program for all staff.
  • Hospitals should educate staff and physicians not only on the importance of vaccination, but how influenza spreads and the negative implications of that spread.
  • Hospitals should measure vaccination rates every year.
  • Hospitals should know why people are refusing to be vaccinated.
  • Hospitals should take action the next season to improve upon those rates.

Further guidance, says Kuhny, is available through a list of best-practice tips on the CDC web site (www.cdc.gov/flu). "We have taken a subset of those best practices and added them to our standard as a footnote," she says.

Kuhny says The Joint Commission "is in full implementation of year two of the [influenza] standard, which fits in perfectly with the challenge; it's kind of a built-in process improvement project."