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(for members only)
September 7, 2011 - With the start of the flu season on the horizon, The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) today announced that 86 percent of Washington hospital workers were immunized against the flu. Washington State’s hospital worker flu immunization rate is 15 percent above the national average.
This is the result of a new hospital worker immunization program whose goal is to stop the transmission of influenza in the hospital. Performance is tracked using the Washington State Hospital Association’s Quality Benchmarking System (QBS), a quality improvement tool created in partnership with Premera Blue Cross. It allows hospitals to monitor their own progress and track against others, and allows the information to be shared with the public. Hospital-specific immunization rates can be found at http://www.wahospitalquality.org.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is a dangerous respiratory illness that causes an average of 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year and as many as 50,000 deaths. “Influenza is always a serious disease, but for hospital patients – premature infants, vulnerable seniors, and people with significant health issues – getting the flu can be life-threatening,” said Scott Bond, president of WSHA.
The hospital immunization program began implementation last year when the WSHA board of trustees recommended aggressive action to stop the spread of influenza in Washington’s hospitals. Hospitals across Washington State adopted policies requiring employees (including nurses and physicians) to either get immunized against the flu or take other protective actions. This was a big change from traditionally voluntary flu immunization programs, which have resulted in low health care worker immunization rates.
The model policy used in Washington State was the basis for national guidelines recommended this year.
“Washington is one of the first states in the nation to adopt flu immunization policies focused on the safety of patients,” explained Bond. “The result is a dramatic increase in the number of immunized hospital workers and an equally dramatic decrease in the number of patients who will be exposed to the flu while receiving care at our hospitals.”
Brian Ancell, Executive Vice President of Health Care Services at Premera Blue Cross, and a board member of WSHA’s Patient Safety Committee, additionally announced that Premera will dedicate up to $1 million in additional support over the next four years to further develop patient safety programs across the state. “Premera and WSHA share the goal of improving patient safety and reducing costly hospital readmissions,” said Ancell. “We will continue to provide the support needed to move critical issues such as health care worker flu immunizations forward.”
The Washington State Hospital Association represents all 97 community hospitals. The association takes a major leadership role in issues that affect delivery, quality, accessibility, affordability, and continuity of health care. It works to improve the health status of the residents of Washington State.
WSHA’s Patient Safety Program began in 2005 as a collaborative effort of hospitals and health systems across Washington State. Hospitals work together to share best practices and implement evidence based solutions to eliminate harm and improve patient safety. The program is guided by a multi-disciplinary Patient Safety Committee whose members include nurses, physicians, hospital board members, CEOs, and insurance company representatives.
Our mission is to provide peace of mind to our members about their healthcare coverage. We provide health plans and related services to more than 1.6 million people. Premera Blue Cross has operated in Washington since 1933, and Alaska since 1952. Premera Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Premera Blue Cross is a member of a family of companies based in Mountlake Terrace, Washington that provide health, life, vision, dental, stop-loss, disability, and other related products and services.