News release: Minnesota's FluSafe program earns prestigious national award

News Release
May 9, 2012
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Minnesota's FluSafe program earns prestigious national award

Effectiveness shown in increasing influenza vaccination rates among health care personnel

The Minnesota Department of Health's (MDH) FluSafe program, designed to increase influenza vaccination rates among health care workers, has received a 2012 Immunization Excellence Award from the National Influenza Vaccine Summit (NIVS). FluSafe was named a National Winner in the Healthcare Personnel Campaign category. The awards will be presented during the National Influenza Vaccine Summit in Atlanta on May 17.

The MDH FluSafe program was established in 2010 to increase rates of health care personnel (HCP) influenza vaccination in Minnesota. Vaccinating health care personnel can help prevent influenza infections from spreading to vulnerable patients. The rates of health care worker vaccination in Minnesota were estimated to be at 71 percent in the year 2009, far from the national goal of 90 percent. Now nearing the end of FluSafe's second year of operation, both hospitals and nursing homes that participate in FluSafe have higher vaccination rates than facilities that do not participate. The program facilitates friendly competition between health care facilities; creates transparency through public recognition; and supports thorough and accurate tracking of influenza vaccine coverage.

FluSafe is a voluntary program. By choosing to participate each year, hospitals and nursing homes publicly demonstrate their commitment to patient safety. They design their own vaccination campaigns, enhanced in many cases by FluSafe's evidence-based online tools and materials. At the conclusion of each influenza season, each facility's HCP vaccination rate is measured using the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC), the state immunization information system. Facilities that have achieved 70 percent or higher are recognized in an MDH press release and a listing on MDH's website. These facilities are also provided with certificates, posters, and window clings to display. In addition, participants receive press release templates and sample newsletter articles to help publicize their achievements and build public awareness of the importance of HCP influenza vaccination.

In FluSafe's inaugural season, 137 hospitals and nursing homes participated. Of these, 109 were eligible for public recognition by reaching at least 70 percent HCP vaccination rates. Impressively, 27 facilities attained vaccination levels of 90 percent or greater, meeting the Healthy People 2020 goal and setting an example for their peers.

FluSafe is now in its second season of operation, with a marked gain in participation to 214 facilities statewide. This represents 72 percent of hospitals and 27 percent of nursing homes in Minnesota. FluSafe facilities vaccinate more HCP than non-FluSafe facilities, according to MDH data. FluSafe hospitals' average rate was 82 percent, while the average at non-FluSafe hospitals was only 73 percent. The difference is even more pronounced among nursing homes, with rates at FluSafe nursing homes reaching 75 percent, greater than both the state average and the average for non-FluSafe nursing homes (62 percent).

"FluSafe represents an advance over other health care personnel vaccination programs in that its use of MIIC to track vaccinations provides consistent documentation of vaccination rates," said program coordinator Jennifer Heath. HCP vaccinations are tracked in the immunization information system to allow for consistent comparisons of formally documented rates - something not possible with programs that rely on self-reported data. Another advantage of using MIIC is that it allows sites to track their own progress over the course of each season.

FluSafe is supported statewide thanks in part to the professional organization leaders from around Minnesota that have been engaged from the very start, Heath noted. The Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety (MAPS), Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA), the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) and Care Providers of Minnesota, among others, have all been strong partners. The program's popularity is due to the benefits to health care worker and patient safety. In addition, using immunization registries (MIIC) will support meeting one of the meaningful use objectives of eligible hospitals and the vision of the Minnesota e-Health Initiative. FluSafe has extended MIIC's reach by providing an easy way for nursing homes to begin submitting immunization data.

The NIVS awards were given in four categories: overall season activities, healthcare personnel campaign, immunization coalitions/public health/community campaign, and corporate campaign. Nominees were evaluated based on the areas of impact, collaboration, originality, challenges and opportunities. There were 32 nominees in all this year.

The NIVS is co-sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Summit is an action-oriented entity with over 400 members who represent over 100 public and private organizations with an interest in addressing and resolving influenza and influenza vaccine issues.


For more information, contact:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Jennifer Heath
FluSafe Coordinator