August is National Immunization Awareness Month!

Promote the importance of immunizations with this communications toolkit put together by the National Public Health Information Coalition and the CDC.  The 2015 edition contains key messages, vaccine information, sample news releases and articles, sample social media messages, links to web resources from CDC and other organizations, and logos, web banners, posters and graphics to use with social media.

Each week of August, a different group will be featured:
• Week 1 (Aug. 2–8)—Preteens and Teens: Ensure a healthy future with vaccines
• Week 2 (Aug. 9–15)—Pregnant Women: Protect yourself and pass protection on to your baby
• Week 3 (Aug. 16–22)—Adults: Vaccines are not just for kids
• Week 4 (Aug. 23–30)—Infants and Children: A healthy start begins with on-time vaccinations

Use the toolkit to design your own promotions. Mix and match, copy or adapt the contents to fit the particular news and issues of your practice or community!

Are you planning to stock both Gardasil® and Gardasil 9® in your vaccine refrigerator?

Merck has created a resource for practices who plan to stock both vaccines to help prevent potential mix-ups.  Since both vaccines should be stored the same way (refrigerated and protected from light), Merck created an additional way to distinguish the vaccines by manufacturing them with different colored vial caps – Gardasil® has a green cap and Gardasil 9® has a brown cap.  Visit Merck’s resources for complete details on Gardasil® handling and storage.

There are now less than 90 days until the transition to ICD-10 coding on October 1! With the hopes of providing a smoother transition, CMS has granted a one-year grace period for physicians.

CMS has taken steps to ensure physicians don’t summarily fall victim to claims denials or audits for making innocent mistakes in coding.  During the grace period which starts October 1, 2015, Medicare claims will not be denied and claims will not be audited based on coding as long as the physician submits an ICD-10 code from an appropriate family of codes.  CMS is releasing additional guidance on flexibility in the auditing and quality reporting process as the medical community gains experience using the new set of codes. Physicians should be aware that after Sept. 30, Medicare will no longer accept ICD-9 codes for service. Neither will it accept claims using both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes.  (Full Story)

The AAP recommends participating in ICD-10 end-to-end testing now to prepare for the transition.  Ensure that your practice management system as well as your payers, billing company and clearinghouse are ready for the transition.  CMS and the AAP also have a variety of tools to help!

Did you know it is estimated that only 29.6% of older adolescents have received a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine, leaving approximately 7 million older adolescents under-vaccinated against meningococcal disease?

How will you help protect your patients from this potentially devastating disease?

Start by identifying your practice’s booster vaccination rate and then increasing it:
• Compare the number of adolescent patients in your practice versus the amount of meningococcal vaccine you order
• Comb your EMRs for under-vaccinated 16- to 18-year-old patients and flag these patients for follow-up
• Implement a protocol to check every older adolescent’s chart and flag those who have not received a booster dose

Once you’ve established your practice’s booster vaccination rate, it is important that you set a goal and share the information with your staff. Remind them to talk to patients about meningococcal disease and to vaccinate at every opportunity. Don’t forget that sick visits are often a great opportunity to “catch” adolescents who don’t come in for well visits as often as younger children.

In 2010, the ACIP recommended that adolescents receive 2 doses of meningococcal vaccine: the first at 11 to 12 years of age and the second at 16 years of age. The second dose is recommended because at a critical time, immunity to meningococcal disease may wane: studies have shown that protection provided by the primary vaccination given at 11 to 12 years of age decreases over time. In fact, approximately 50% of older adolescents may be under-protected against meningococcal disease 5 years after primary vaccination—the same time they enter their peak period of risk for this disease.

References: 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention and control of meningococcal disease: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2013;62(RR-2):1-28. 2. CDC. Updated recommendations for use of meningococcal conjugate vaccines—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2010. MMWR. 2011;60(3):72-76. 3. CDC. National, regional, state, and selected local area vaccination coverage among adolescents aged 13–17 years—United States, 2013. MMWR. 2014;63(29):625-633. 4. Sanofi Pasteur Inc. Data on file (2nd dose immunization rates), April 2013. MKT26442.