In rural communities, not only are there limited numbers of health care providers, but immunization rates tend to be below nationally recommended levels. One example of this is in Stewart County in southwestern Georgia, where influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates are well below the state average.
In 2018, Alliant Health Solutions Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO)—the QIN-QIO serving the states of Georgia and North Carolina—created a collaborative team to improve communication among key stakeholders working toward one common goal—increasing influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates among Stewart County’s approximately 700 Medicare beneficiaries.
After contacting the county nurse manager from Stewart County to inquire about developing a coalition with providers, Alliant approached the Stewart County Family Connection. Located throughout every county in Georgia, Family Connection is an organization that brings together community leaders to improve conditions for families and communities. The network’s Health Committee agreed to collaborate with the QIN-QIO on a grassroots effort to improve immunization rates in early 2016; providers and pharmacies were recruited for the collaborative. The stakeholders convened in person and via conference calls to share ideas about how to improve immunization rates. By opening communication channels and sharing barriers, providers were able to assess each other’s vaccination capabilities and fill gaps where needed to fully cover beneficiaries’ immunization needs.
“They just got right to work,” said Libby Massiah, Task Lead: Immunizations and Cardiac Health for Alliant Health Solutions QIN-QIO. “I was impressed with how well they worked as a team, jumping in there because they already had been talking to each other and knew what it was they wanted to do.”
Between 2016 and 2017, Stewart and two adjacent counties all showed a five percent or more increase in immunizations over the 2014 baseline data.
Not only was the Alliant Health Solutions QIN-QIO able to make a positive impact on Stewart County, but surrounding counties saw improvements in their immunization rates as well. Between 2016 and 2017, Stewart and two adjacent counties all showed a five percent or more increase in immunizations over the 2014 baseline data.
Due to increased interest in the project, other providers have asked to be included in the collaborative and information sharing. Group members continue to communicate and sustain their collaborative structure for their next area of focus; so far they are discussing diabetes and hypertension.