The MGMA's leader says physician practices should be on the frontline of COVID-19 vaccination.
Many of the country's physician practices have been left out of the coronavirus vaccination effort, a new survey indicates.
Although the development of coronavirus vaccines has proceeded more rapidly than most public health experts predicted at the beginning of the pandemic last spring, vaccination efforts have been relatively slow in many states. For example, California is recasting the administration of vaccine after an inefficient rollout.
The new survey, which was released this week by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), is based on data collected from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24. The data was collected from 400 medical practices that are already vaccinating patients or are planning to vaccinate patients.
The survey features four data points:
- 71% of physician practices reported they were unable to obtain coronavirus vaccines for patients
- 85% of independent physician practices reported they were unable to obtain coronavirus vaccines for patients
- 45% of hospital or health system-owned physician practices reported they were unable to obtain coronavirus vaccines for patients
- The majority of physician practices that have been able to get coronavirus vaccines report limited supply and only being able to vaccinate 1% or less of their patients
Prescription for physician practice involvement in COVID-19 vaccination
Physician practices should be the primary place for coronavirus vaccinations after the first phase of vaccination for frontline healthcare workers and people over 75, says Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, president and CEO of the MGMA, which is based in Englewood, Colorado.
"Physician practices are uniquely suited for the role. They have patient registers, they have methodology to keep track of vaccines, and they already have vaccine systems set up for their patients as evidenced by administration of flu vaccine, shingles vaccine, and other vaccines. This is not a new process for physician practices. It is already well established," she says.
Patients expect physician practices to play a major role in the vaccination effort, Fischer-Wright says.
"Cutting physician practices out of the entire supply chain has created issues in the sense that patients are already calling and utilizing practice resources to ask about where to get vaccine, how to get vaccine, when to get vaccine, and whether to get vaccinated. Practices are already answering those questions. It would be much more effective to take that time and resources and convert it to getting patients into practices to get vaccinated."
Physician practices involved in coronavirus vaccination should not be limited to primary care practices, she says.
"Any practice that handles chronic disease should also be involved. For example, nephrology practices would be a great place to get your vaccine if you are on dialysis or have end-stage renal disease. If you have congestive heart failure, your cardiology practice would be a great place to get your vaccine. If you have cancer, your oncology practice would be a great place to get your vaccine. Some of the most vulnerable people who are in most need of the vaccine are in medical specialty care."
Physician practices well-suited to address vaccination hesitancy
Physician practices are trusted sources of information, and they can have a positive impact on addressing vaccination hesitancy, Fischer-Wright says.
"We still have a significant population of people who do not want to get the vaccine because they do not trust it. For example, studies have shown that more than 40% of nursing home workers are turning down the vaccine because they do not trust the people who employ them and they do not trust the vaccine. You can address that by having nursing home workers get the vaccine from their personal physicians, where there is an establishment of trust."
Related: Coronavirus Vaccination: 4 Best Practices for Communicating With Patients
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
The rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been slow and inefficient in many states.
Physician practices have vaccination experience such as administering vaccines for influenza and shingles, MGMA president and CEO Halee Fischer-Wright says.
Physician practices can reduce vaccination hesitancy because they are trusted sources of information, Fischer-Wright says.