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The Joint Commission requirements for behavioral health organizations to implement influenza vaccination programs went into effect in 2012 and were expanded in 2013. Most BH organizations now have a process for offering influenza vaccination and educating staff about the importance of the vaccine. However, some BH organizations still struggle with meeting all of the requirements in this area and this standard (IC.02.04.01) has now made its way into the Top Five findings for BH organizations for the first half of 2016. 24% of BH organizations surveyed during this time period were cited on this standard.

As we review our database of survey findings for our clients, the most significant challenge appears to be setting numerical goals for improving the influenza vaccination rate and then actually achieving these goals. Surveyors are closely scrutinizing this requirement and citing organizations for non-compliance. To be clear, the TJC requirement is as follows: “The organization sets incremental influenza vaccination goals, consistent with achieving the 90% rate established by the national influenza initiatives for 2020.” This means you must show documentation that you have established your baseline level of compliance and set annual goals that will progressively move you toward achieving that 90% goal by 2020. Be aware that TJC did not arbitrarily set this goal . It is based on the US Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections and the 90% goal is the same across all healthcare settings (hospitals, BH programs, etc.) So, do not expect TJC to back off this requirement.

Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” for how to improve your influenza vaccination rates. It starts with the all-important strategy of leadership agreeing to make this a top priority and communicating that loud and clear throughout the organization. Many organizations report that when senior leadership and medical staff got vaccinated, vaccination rates improved significantly among all staff. Some of the other strategies we have seen in BH organizations that have been highly successful in improving vaccination rates include the following:

  • An organized campaign that includes intensive (but engaging) education and publicity.
  • Providing free vaccine at the work site.
  • Vaccination clinics set up in readily accessible areas (during educational activities, staff meetings, near cafeteria at meal times).
  • Mobile vaccine carts: Taking the vaccine out to staff’s different locations provides a major convenience factor.
  • Access to vaccination during all work shifts.
  • Scheduling vaccination for part time and on-call staff.
  • Follow-up for staff who miss the scheduled clinics.
  • Prizes and incentives: These can be modest but fun and promote a sense of team spirit.

So, if your organizations is struggling with how to improve your influenza vaccination rates, make this a top priority for your 2017 Infection Control program. Research best practices like those described in Strategies for Improving Health Care Personnel Influenza Vaccination Rates. You’ll not only improve your compliance with this TJC requirement. You’ll make your workplace a healthier environment for clients and staff!